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Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure)

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unknown Ijebu
Yoruba Primary

Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure)

Late19th century - Mid 20th century
Carved wood with beads

8 1/4 in. x 3 3/8 in. x 3 1/8 in. (21 cm x 8.5 cm x 8 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 99.3.4
Other Number(s): 159 (F) (Neufeld Collection Number)
Geography: Africa, Nigeria, Iperu
Classification: Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Culture/Nationality: Ijebu, Yoruba, Iperu, Nigerian, West African, African
Collection: Neufeld Collection
Description: 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.

Keywords Click a term to view the records with the same keyword
This object has the following keywords:
  • African - Refers to the cultures of the continent of Africa, which is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • beads - Refers to small objects, of any shape or material, pierced so that they may be strung or hung or attached, as by sewing.
  • carving - 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.
  • ere ibeji - Anthropomorphic figures carved by the Yoruba people of Africa in memory of a deceased twin or twins.
  • Nigerian
  • ritual objects - Objects used for a particular ritual activity, often as part of a ceremony.
  • twins - 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.
  • West African - 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.
  • wood - 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.
  • Yoruba

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  • Owner Name: Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld, Class of 1953
    Role: Donor
    Place: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US
    Ownership End Date: 12/20/1996

  • Owner Name: Unknown
    Remarks: The logo on the base for this ere ibeji, Base Co., is from "The Base Company" a shop owned by Peter Sinclair which opened in 1968 in Manhatten making bases for sculptures and artwork for dealers and collectors. He is said to have been in business into the 1980's. This would seem to imply that a collector or dealer in the vicinity of Manhatten owned this ere Ibeji at that time.

Comparanda List
The following Comparanda exist for this object:
  • Fausto Polo, "Ibeji Archive." (Accessed July 23, 2020): Record No.: 23V14.
  • Fausto Polo, "Ibeji Archive." (Accessed July 23, 2020): Record No.: 23V15.
  • "African Heritage Document and Research Center." (Accessed June 11, 2020): Record No.: 0106532.

Related Bibliography List
The following Related Bibliography exist for this object:
  • Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi and Carol Thompson. "Embodying the Sacred in Yoruba Art: Featuring the Bernard and Patricia WagnerCollection: A Case Study in Museum Practice." African Arts 42, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 32-43.
  • Eva L. R. Meyerowitz, "Ibeji Statuettes from Yoruba, Nigeria." Man 44 (Sept. 1944 - Oct. 1944): 105-106.
  • Taiwo Oruene, "Magical Powers of Twins in the Socio-Religious Beliefs of the Yoruba." Folklore 96, no. 2 (1985): 208-216.
  • Elisha P. Renne, "Twinship in an Ekiti Yoruba Town." Ethnology 40, no. 1 (2001): 63-78.
  • "National Museums of Scotland: Online Collections Database." (Accessed April 5, 2020): National Museums of Scotland,
  • George Chemeche, Ibeji: The Cult of Yoruba Twins (Milan, Italy: 5 Continents Editions srl, 2003), 27-29.
  • Gert Stoll and Mareidi Stoll. Ibeji: Zwillingsfiguren der Yoruba (Munich, Germany: Authors, January 1, 1980), 146-149.
  • Stefan Eisenhofer, ed. Kulte, Künstler, Könige in Afrika: Tradition und Moderne in Südnigeria (Linz, Austria: des Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseums, 1977), 232-241.

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<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure) |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=5/30/2023 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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