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Yoruba Ibeji Figures, Nigeria, West Africa Collection of 21

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Collection No. Coll - Ibeji
Size Heights 20-25cm
Yoruba Ibeji Figures, Nigeria, West Africa Collection of 21
Yoruba Ibeji Figures, Nigeria, West Africa Collection of 21

The Yoruba people of Nigeria in West Africa have one of the highest birth rate of twins in the world, with 45 of every 1,000 children born a twin, but also have a high mortality rate. In Yoruba culture, twins are considered to possess special powers: they are believed to be one soul and must be cared for accordingly. If a twin dies in infancy, the family have a wooden figure carved to represent the dead twin.

These carved figures are called Ere Ibeji. The family looks after this figure as if it were alive: feeding, bathing, clothing, carrying it like a baby and performing rituals on significant occasions, to ensure the balance of the shared soul. Many of these figures show evidence of the years of attention and care they have been given, their facial features have worn smooth with the handling they have received.

Yoruba carving has a number of characteristics including the shape of the head and elaborate conical hairstyle which represent ideals of Yoruba beauty. These distinctive small standing figures are carved to portray the twin in adult form, and the sculptures may be dyed, or decorated with shells, glass beads, and metal to enhance their status.
The elaborate style and beauty of the carvings are influenced by the powerful artistic and cultural traditions of the Kingdom of Benin, which flourished in southwest Nigeria between the 13th and 19th centuries.

My little collection was made of 20 years of trying to find examples that look good together.


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