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Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure)

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Image of Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure)

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unknown Oyo
Yoruba Primary

Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure)

Late 19th century - Mid 20th century
Carved wood with pigment, metal, glass, and textile

10 1/4 in. x 2 3/4 in. (26 cm x 7 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 99.3.96
Other Number(s): 70 (155) (Neufeld Collection Number)
155 (Sotheby's Lot Number)
Geography: Africa, Nigeria
Classification: Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Culture/Nationality: Oyo, Yoruba, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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

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

Bibliography List
The following Bibliography exist for this object:
  • Important Tribal Art Sotheby's . New York, NY, 1989
    Figure Number: 155
  • "African Heritage Document and Research Center." (Accessed June 11, 2020): Record No.: 0108353.

Comparanda List
The following Comparanda exist for this object:
  • "African Heritage Document and Research Center." (Accessed June 11, 2020): Record No.: 0167821.
  • Fausto Polo, "Ibeji Archive." (Accessed July 23, 2020): Record No.: 53V01.

Related Bibliography List
The following Related Bibliography exist for this object:
  • Marilyn Hammersley Houlberg, "Ibeji Images of the Yoruba." African Arts 7, no. 1 (Autumn 1973): 20-92.
  • Eva L. R. Meyerowitz, "Ibeji Statuettes from Yoruba, Nigeria." Man 44 (Sept. 1944 - Oct. 1944): 105-107.
  • Justine L. Kreher, "Ibejis: Twin Figures of the Yoruba." African Arts 20, no. 3 (May 1987): 82.
  • Rowland Abiodun, "Woman in Yoruba Religious Images." African Languages and Cultures 2, no. 1 (1989): 1-18.
  • 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.
  • "Ere Ibeji Figures (Yoruba peoples) – Smarthistory." (Accessed April 13, 2020):
  • 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.

Portfolio List Click a portfolio name to view all the objects in that portfolio
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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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