Nigeria, Igbomina region, Oro
Twin Figure (Ibeji), Probably last quarter of the 19th – first quarter of the 20th century
Wood, glass, fiber, brass, silver (?), camwood powder, traces of indigo
10 3/8 × 4 3/4 × 2 7/8 in. (26.4 × 12.1 × 7.3 cm.)
Gift of Bernard de Grunne 2004.12
Honoring the Dead/Protecting the Living
This female figure may appear in the prime of life, but she actually represents a dead child. The Yoruba, who have the highest rate of twin births in the world, believe when a twin dies it may become lonely and attempt to lure the living twin to the afterworld. To prevent this, parents commission carved figures called ere ibeji to honor the deceased twin and house its soul. A mother cares for ibeji as she would care for living twins by offering them food and fine clothing. Yoruba twins are often dedicated to the god Shango, and these figures sometimes reside on Shango shrines.