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Image of Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure)

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Bookmark: http://triarte.brynmawr.edu/objects-1/info/145845



unknown Egba
Yoruba Primary



Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure)

20th century
Carved wood with beads
State: Likely made for the tourist market and not ritually used

10 x 3.5 x 3 in. (25.4 x 8.89 x 7.62 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 99.5.5
Other Number(s): 84-26A (Neufeld Collection Number)
Geography: Africa, Nigeria, Abeokuta
Classification: Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Culture/Nationality: Egba, Abeokuta, 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

This particular ibeji is thought to have been made for the tourist market and never used as a ritual object.

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.
  • bracelets - Ornamental bands or circlets worn on the lower arm. Use "armlets" for similar articles worn on the upper arm.
  • 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.
  • Egba
  • ere ibeji - Anthropomorphic figures carved by the Yoruba people of Africa in memory of a deceased twin or twins.
  • female - Referring to the sex that normally produces eggs or female germ cells.
  • necklaces - 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.
  • Nigerian
  • reproductions - Copies of art images, art objects, decorative arts, or other valued images or objects, made without intent to deceive; with regard to art images, it includes photographic reproductions. The term implies more precise and faithful imitation than does the term "copies (derivative objects)." Where the intent is to deceive, see "forgeries" or "counterfeits." For prints copying other two-dimensional works, typically dating from before the widespread use of photography, use "reproductive prints."
  • 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.
  • tourism - The industry providing facilities and services to people traveling for recreation.
  • 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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Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:
  • African and Pacific Art from the Neufeld Collection Bryn Mawr College , Apr 28, 1993 – Jun 1, 1993

Provenance History
  • Owner Name: Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld, Class of 1953
    Role: Donor
    Place: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US
    Ownership End Date: 7/18/1991


Comparanda List
The following Comparanda exist for this object:
  • "African Heritage Document and Research Center." (Accessed June 11, 2020): AHDRC.eu. Record No.: 0106399.
  • "African Heritage Document and Research Center." (Accessed June 11, 2020): AHDRC.eu. Record No.: 0106403.

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/.
  • Timothy Mobolade, "Ibeji Custom in Yorubaland." African Arts 4, no. 3 (Spring 1971): 14-15.
  • Justine L. Kreher, "Ibejis: Twin Figures of the Yoruba." African Arts 20, no. 3 (May 1987): 82.
  • T. J. H. Chappel, "The Yoruba Cult of Twins in Historical Perspective." Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 44, no. 3 (July 1974): 250-265.
  • Gert Stoll and Mareidi Stoll. Ibeji: Zwillingsfiguren der Yoruba (Munich, Germany: Authors, January 1, 1980), 73-81, 334-337.
  • 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/145845 |title=Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure) |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=5/24/2022 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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