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Twin Figure (Ere Ibeji)

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Image of Twin Figure (Ere Ibeji)

Yoruba Peoples

Twin Figure (Ere Ibeji)

20th century

Object Type: Sculpture
10 3/4 in. x 3 1/8 in. x 3 in. (27.31 cm x 7.94 cm x 7.62 cm)
Medium and Support: Wood and pigment
Accession Number: 2013.0017.0032

Credit Line: Gift of Dileep and Martha Mehta

The Yoruba, who have the highest incidence of twin births in the world, traditionally believed that twins share a single soul. If one died, they had a carver make a small twin figure, "ere ibeji," to represent the deceased, not as an infant but as an adult. The mother of the surviving twin cared for the ere ibeji as they did the surviving twin lest the spirit of the deceased beckon the living twin to join it in the spirit world. Twin figures were fed, bathed, dressed, and rocked to sleep. Many were painted, clothed, or adorned with beads—just like the living twin, who often took responsibility for the images of their soul mates when their parents died.

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