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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.


Early/mid–20th century


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




Twin Figures (Ere Ibeji)


Nigeria (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Wood, glass beads, and thread


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


Extended information about this artwork

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