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Image of Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure)

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Bookmark: http://triarte.brynmawr.edu/objects-1/info/145817



unknown Oyo
Yoruba Primary



Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure)

First half 20th century
Carved wood with pigment

10 5/8 in. x 3 1/8 in. x 3 1/8 in. (27 cm x 8 cm x 8 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 99.3.29
Other Number(s): 155 (A) (Neufeld Collection Number)
Geography: Africa, Nigeria, Ilorin, Kwara State
Classification: Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Culture/Nationality: Oyo, Ilorin, Kwara State, Yoruba, Nigerian, West African, African
Collection: Neufeld Collection
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.
  • 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.
  • indigo - 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.
  • male - Referring to the sex that in reproduction normally produces sperm cells or male gametes.
  • Nigerian
  • Oyo
  • ritual objects - Objects used for a particular ritual activity, often as part of a ceremony.
  • scarifications - 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.
  • 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

Additional Images Click an image to view a larger version
Additional Image 99.3.29_BMC_f.jpg
99.3.29_BMC_f.jpg

Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:
  • Exhibiting Africa: Ways of Seeing, Knowing, and Showing Bryn Mawr College , Jan 25, 2017 – Mar 5, 2017
  • Ere Ibejis: Yoruba Twin Figures from the Bryn Mawr College Collection Bryn Mawr College , Aug 1, 2000 – Dec 30, 2003

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


Comparanda List
The following Comparanda exist for this object:
  • Fausto Polo, "Ibeji Archive." (Accessed July 23, 2020): http://ibejiarchive.com/. Record No.: 56V18.
  • "African Heritage Document and Research Center." (Accessed June 11, 2020): AHDRC.eu. Record No.: 0145295.
  • Gert Stoll and Mareidi Stoll. Ibeji: Zwillingsfiguren der Yoruba (Munich, Germany: Authors, January 1, 1980), 262. Figure Number: 148
  • George Chemeche, Ibeji: The Cult of Yoruba Twins (Milan, Italy: 5 Continents Editions srl, 2003), 158-161. Figure Number: 114-117

Related Bibliography List
The following Related Bibliography exist for this object:
  • "National Museums of Scotland: Online Collections Database." (Accessed April 5, 2020): National Museums of Scotland, https://www.nms.ac.uk/explore-our-collections/search-our-collections/. https://www.nms.ac.uk/explore-our-collections/stories/world-cultures/ere-ibeji-figures/.
  • Elisabeth L. Cameron, "In Search of Children: Dolls and Agency in Africa." African Arts 30, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 32-33.
  • 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.
  • Elisha P. Renne, "Twinship in an Ekiti Yoruba Town." Ethnology 40, no. 1 (2001): 63-78.
  • Gert Stoll and Mareidi Stoll. Ibeji: Zwillingsfiguren der Yoruba (Munich, Germany: Authors, January 1, 1980), 254-255.
  • Robert Farris Thompson, "Sons of Thunder: Twin Images among the Oyo and Other Yoruba Groups." African Arts 4, no. 3 (Spring 1971): 8-13, 77-80.
  • George Chemeche, Ibeji: The Cult of Yoruba Twins (Milan, Italy: 5 Continents Editions srl, 2003), 27-29.
  • 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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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=BMC>cite web |url=http://triarte.brynmawr.edu/objects-1/info/145817 |title=Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure) |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=8/7/2022 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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