Ere Ibeji (Male twin figure) - 2013.57.4_1


Ere Ibeji (Male twin figure)

Maker: Unidentified Yoruba artist
Medium:Wood, vegetable fibre, and cowrie shells
Geography: Oyo, Nigeria
Date: Collected in 1967
Object number: 2013.57.4
Credit Line: Gift of Jack Lieber
On view
Gallery Location:Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific

Standing male figure with crested hairdo, scarification marks on the cheeks, metal earring in his right ear, beaded necklace, and cloak covered in cowrie shells. The cowrie cloak is meant to underline the power and dignity of the twin through the association with wealth and power. The ornaments on this specific figure also point to an association with the divinities Oshun and Shango.
Ere ibeji are figurines carved to house the spirit of a deceased twin. The Yoruba have the highest rate of twin births in the world. Since twins tend to be more delicate babies, it is not uncommon for one or both to die during or shortly after childbirth. Because the Yoruba believe that twins have great spiritual power, and can bring either prosperity or misfortune to a household, it is important to keep the spirit of a deceased twin appeased, and prevent the spirit of the living twin from wishing to join its partner. When the mother receives the ere ibeji figure, it is bathed, clothed, and fed just like a living child. Today, people may also use commercially produced dolls or even photos as "twin figures" in the ibeji worship.

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