11 1/4 in. x 4 in. x 3 1/2 in. (28.58 cm x 10.16 cm x 8.89 cm)
Gift of Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld, Class of 1953
Bryn Mawr College
157 (C) (Neufeld Collection Number)
Africa, Nigeria, Ila Orangun
Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Ila Orangun, Igbomina, Yoruba, Nigerian, West African, African
Nigeria has the highest incidence of twin births of any country in the world. Among the Yoruba, twins are regarded as blessed spiritual beings who bring wealth to their families. When a twin passes away, the parents consult a babalawo (priest or diviner), who will advise the family to have an ere ibeji, or twin figure, carved to represent the gender of the deceased twin and become the residence of the twin’s spirit.
The mother of the deceased child will care for the ere ibeji just as she cares for the living twin. It will be washed, moisturized, clothed, and fed. It is believed that proper care of the ere ibeji ensures that the deceased twin will not lure the living twin to join it. When a parent can no longer care for the figure, it becomes the responsibility of the living twin. If an ere ibeji is left without a keeper, it is given to an iya’beji, a woman who cares for all abandoned twin figures.
Presently, it is growing less and less common to have an ere ibeji made. Instead, photos are sometimes used to represent a deceased twin.
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- Refers to the cultures of the continent of Africa, which is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
- Trimming, furnishing, adorning, or covering textiles or objects with beads, or creating jewelry by stringing beads.
- The act of shaping, marking, or decorating wood, stone, or another material by cutting or incising, typically using tools such as chisels and other blades. It refers to this process as it is applied to small-scale objects or to objects that are not considered art. "Carving" may also be considered a sculpture technique that is employed in the creation of art.
- Anthropomorphic figures carved by the Yoruba people of Africa in memory of a deceased twin or twins.
- Referring to the sex that normally produces eggs or female germ cells.
- A natural dark blue colorant obtained from the tropical Indigofera tinctoria plants. The use of indigo was first mentioned in Indian manuscripts in the 4th century BCE; it was first exported to Europe in Roman times. The natural material is collected as a precipitate from a fermented solution of the plant, where the coloring component, indigotin, is extracted as a colorless glycoside that turns blue with oxidation. Indigo is a fine, intense powder which may be used directly as a pigment in oil, tempera, or watercolor media. Since the exposed pigment can fade rapidly in strong sunlight, it is rarely used in art or fine textiles today. However, it is still used to dye jeans, where its fading and uneven coloring have become favorable characteristics.
- Objects used for a particular ritual activity, often as part of a ceremony.
- Two siblings conceived, carried in the womb, and usually born at the same time. They may be identical, as when one fertilized egg splits, or fraternal, as when two eggs are individually fertilized.
- Styles and cultures from the region comprising the westernmost area of the African continent, defined by the United Nations as including the modern nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
- The principal tissue of trees and other plants that provides both strength and a means of conducting nutrients. Wood is one of the most versatile materials known.
"African Heritage Document and Research Center."
(Accessed June 11, 2020):
Record No.: 0107933.
Stefan Eisenhofer, ed.
Kulte, Künstler, Könige in Afrika: Tradition und Moderne in Südnigeria
(Linz, Austria: des Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseums, 1977),
Figure Number: Bottom
Related Bibliography List
The following Related Bibliography exist for this object:
and Carol Thompson.
"Embodying the Sacred in Yoruba Art: Featuring the Bernard and Patricia WagnerCollection: A Case Study in Museum Practice."
42, no. 2
Eva L. R. Meyerowitz,
"Ibeji Statuettes from Yoruba, Nigeria."
(Sept. 1944 - Oct. 1944):
Elisha P. Renne,
"Twinship in an Ekiti Yoruba Town."
40, no. 1