Ere Ibeji (Female twin figure) - 2010.45.1.2_1


Ere Ibeji (Female twin figure)

Maker: Unidentified Yoruba artist
Medium:Wood, fibre, glass beads, seeds
Geography: Oyo, Nigeria
Date: 1946-1951
29.3 x 13.2 x 8 cm
Object number: 2010.45.1.2
Credit Line: The Jack Lieber Collection of Yoruba Art.
Not on view

Standing female figure with elaborate crown-like hairdo, scarification marks on the cheeks, and neck, waist and arm ornaments made with glass beads. This figure is part of a pair purchased from Ayo Ajimoko, an Oyo trader, who had acquired them from the Aremo compound near the Afin (palace of the chief oba) of Oyo, an important traditional town about 4 miles north of Ibadan. This twin figure and its male pair (2010.45.1.1) had been discarded by the mother of the twins on the advice of the 'babalawo' (priest) after the birth of the third son in 1951, five years after the death of both twins.
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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