84-25A (Neufeld Collection Number)
Africa, Nigeria, Ibadan
Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Owu, Ibadan, 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.
- Refers to small objects, of any shape or material, pierced so that they may be strung or hung or attached, as by sewing.
- Refers to works executed by cutting a figure or design out of a solid material such as stone or wood. It typically refers to works that are relatively small in size, are part of a larger work, or are not considered art. For large and medium-sized three-dimensional works of art, use the broader term "sculpture" or another appropriate term.
- Referring to the sex that normally produces eggs or female germ cells.
- Ornaments worn around the neck, usually in the form of chains or strands of beads, pearls, stones, or decorative or precious materials, and often including a suspended ornamental pendant. Use "chokers" for short, narrow necklaces worn close to the throat. Use "dog collars (necklaces)" for wide ornamental bands worn tightly around the neck.
- An aged appearance caused by environmental factors, acquired naturally or artificially induced; used especially with regard to a surface layer on metal caused by oxidation or corrosion.
- Objects used for a particular ritual activity, often as part of a ceremony.
- Refers to permanent marks, such as symbols, patterns, or other designs, made on human skin by scarring, done for social or cultural reasons or for personal decoration.
- 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.
and Mareidi Stoll.
Ibeji: Zwillingsfiguren der Yoruba
(Munich, Germany: Authors, January 1, 1980),
Figure Number: 71
"African Heritage Document and Research Center."
(Accessed June 11, 2020):
Record No.: 0155303.
Ibeji: The Cult of Yoruba Twins
(Milan, Italy: 5 Continents Editions srl, 2003),
Figure Number: 105
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