Twin Commemorative Figure (Ere Ibeji)

A work made of wood, glass beads, cowrie shells, pigment, and string.

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  • A work made of wood, glass beads, cowrie shells, pigment, and string.

Date:

Early/mid–20th century

Artist:

Yoruba
Nigeria
Coastal West Africa

About this artwork

This female ere ibeji wears strands of red beads around its neck like its male counterpart [see 1978.862]. It holds strings in both hands, one with attached cowrie shells hanging from it, and wears a single strand of green, red, and white beads around its waist. Its strong vertical posture, long arms, short legs, tranquil and full facial features, and elaborately stylized coiffure perfectly match its sculptural male twin.

Ere ibeji are the visual manifestation of the cult of twins that developed in the Yoruba region around the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Yoruba have one of the highest birth rates of twins in the world, and the cultural responses to twin births as well as to their deaths are documented in the carving and care of the ere ibeji. When a twin dies, an Ifa divination priest will be consulted and a sculptor will be commissioned to carve a sculpture that will function as a memorial to the lost child and a ritual point of contact with his or her soul. Although the sculpture represents an infant, they are typically carved with features associated with peak maturity—hair, facial markings, and slender proportions. The sculptures are cared for as if they were a live infant—rubbed with oil, washed, fed, and clothed.

–Permanent Collection Object Description

Currently Off View

Arts of Africa

Artist

Yoruba

Title

Twin Commemorative Figure (Ere Ibeji)

Origin

Nigeria

Date

1900–1975

Medium

Wood, glass beads, cowrie shells, pigment, and string

Dimensions

H. 24 cm (9 7/16 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Wilbur Tuggle

Reference Number

1978.863

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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