Male Twin Figure (Ere Ibeji)

Yoruba peoples (Northern Oyo)
19th–20th century
more object details

General Description

This figure of a fully developed adult actually represents a male twin who died as a child. The Yoruba people believe twins have special connections to the spiritual world. When a twin dies in childhood, a statue, called "ere ibeji," is carved as a representation and memorial. Believing that the twin's spirit lives on in the ere ibeji, the family treats the carving as if it were alive. This "ere ibeji" is adorned with cowry shells, a form of currency used by the Yoruba and found in the Indian Ocean, and expensive glass beads from Europe. The figure's facial features have been rubbed away due to repeated washings, indicating that he has been well cared for by his family. Offerings and washings appease the deceased twin and keep him or her from returning to disrupt the family or claim his living sister or brother.