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Many Faces, Many Places

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Twin Figure (Ere Ibeji)

9 3/8 x 2 5/8 x 2 3/4 in. (23.8 x 6.7 x 7 cm)

Yoruba artist

Yoruba; made in Nigeria

Object Type: Sculpture
Medium and Support: Wood, pigment, beads, cowrie shells, fiber, sacrificial materials
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1965.9.1
Location: Currently on view
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The Yoruba have one of the highest rates of twinning in the world. Twins are endowed with powerful attributes, both auspicious and dangerous. Due to the high mortality rate of twins, when one or both dies, Yoruba mothers procure small wooden statues (ere ibeji) to house the spirits of the deceased. If there is a single ibeji, it is likely that one twin died and one survived. If there are two ibeji figures, then it is likely that both twins died. Wealthy women clothe their ere ibeji in beaded or shelled vests.

Surface accumulation and signs of wear are common as ibeji figures are cared for in the same manner as a living child and are handled, clothed, washed, fed and honored with dances and songs. Lyrics from a Yoruba song explain how the care of ere ibeji can control the potentially negative influence of twins’ spirits, “Abuse me and I shall follow you home. Praise me and I shall leave you alone.” Subsequent generations inherit the care of ere ibeji from their ancestors.
[Gallery label text, 2009]

Everett Rassiga (1922-2003), New York (dealer); purchased from him by the Gallery in 1965

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