Ere Ibeji (Female twin figures) - ROM2010_11686_6


Ere Ibeji (Female twin figures)

Maker: Unidentified Yoruba artist
Medium:Carved wood
Geography: Ede, Nigeria
Date: before 1967
27.3 x 6.5 x 6.5 cm
Object number: 2010.45.29.1
Credit Line: The Jack Lieber Collection of Yoruba Art
On view
Gallery Location:Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific
DescriptionTwin figures wearing a double cloak covered in cowrie shells. The cowrie shell cloak enfolding these ere ibeji serves a double purpose. Because cowrie shells were once used as currency in Nigeria, it serves as a visible symbol of the wealth of the owner. The cowrie cloak is also a symbol of Shango, the god of thunder and lightning. Some Yoruba legends point to Shango’s brother, the mythological king Ajaka as the ruler who ended the ancient practice of killing twins at birth when his own wife bore him twins, thus making all twins spiritual relatives of 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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