Twin Figures (Ere Ibeji)

A work made of wood, glass beads, and thread.

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  • A work made of wood, glass beads, and thread.

Date:

Early/mid–20th century

Artist:

Yoruba
Kisi or Old Oyo, Oyo region, Nigeria
Coastal West Africa

About this artwork

The Yoruba of Nigeria have the highest recorded rate of twin births in the world, with an estimated 45 sets of twins in every 1,000 births. For Yoruba families, the birth of twins is greeted with rejoicing because they are believed to possess special powers and the ability to bring good fortune to those who honor them properly. However, multiple births have an increased risk of one of the twins dying during infancy. Figures like these, called ibeji, are memorials to deceased twins. Their elaborate hairstyles and beaded jewelry mark their honored status. When one twin dies, a single sculpture is commissioned and cared for by the mother and later by the surviving twin. If both infants die, a sculptor creates two images. The figures are ritually washed, dressed, and offered favorite foods. Such figures reflect the various styles of individual artists and regions. The heads of the pair from the Oyo region have been repeatedly bathed with indigo, symbolizing the calming of the spirit's inner being.
— Descriptive text

Currently Off View

Arts of Africa

Artist

Yoruba

Title

Twin Figures (Ere Ibeji)

Origin

Oyo state

Date

1900–1975

Medium

Wood, glass beads, and thread

Dimensions

Left: 25.4 × 8.3 × 6.7 cm (10 × 3 1/4 × 2 5/8 in.); right: 25.4 × 7.6 × 6.7 cm (10 × 3 × 2 5/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Deborah Stokes and Jeffrey Hammer

Reference Number

1982.1513-14

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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