162 (I) (Neufeld Collection Number)
Africa, Nigeria, Shaki
Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Oyo, Yoruba, Shaki, 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.
- Anthropomorphic figures carved by the Yoruba people of Africa in memory of a deceased twin or twins.
- Referring to the sex that normally produces eggs or female germ cells.
- Species of shrub shrub that is an annual, biennial, or perennial, depending upon the climate. It was an original source of indigo dye. It is naturalized to tropical and temperate Asia and Africa, and cultivated elsewhere for centuries; its location of origin is uncertain.
- Decorative items worn inserted into a hole in or near the lip.