Twin Figure (Ere Ibeji)
9 3/8 x 2 5/8 x 2 3/4 in. (23.8 x 6.7 x 7 cm)
Medium and Support:
Wood, pigment, beads, cowrie shells, fiber, sacrificial materials
Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Location: Currently on view
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]