Student Interpretation → Elizabeth Croasmun

  • Female Twin

Yoruba ere ibeji

These two wooden sculptures represent deceased twins and function as cult figures within the Yoruba culture. The sculptures would have been commissioned by the mother, or other close relative of the deceased, and subjected to daily ritual to appease the deceased twin. Twins are considered other worldly in the Yoruba culture and possess unnatural powers over family illness, death, and fertility. By creating a pleasing vessel for the soul and performing appropriate displays to honor the deceased the woman can generate wealth and auspiciousness. The beads that adorn each figure are significant in their color, placement and presence. The inclusion of the beads refers to the wealth, in both money and children, created by the spirits of the deceased twins when they are properly honored. The strings of beads encircling the torsos and extremities of the two statues enclose and protect the spiritual power (ase) of the twins' souls. The colors of the beads are also an important factor of the inherent power of ere ibeji. White, the dominate bead color, is associated with the property of coolness (funfun) and blue is considered to fall within the warm mid-ground (dudu). These properties, along with a number of daily rituals, counteract the hot nature (pupa) of twins and allow them to be successfully manipulated.

Female Twin Figure

Female Twin Figure (ere ibeji)

Yoruba people
Nigeria
Femail Twin Figure (ere ibeji)
Wood, pigment,beads,camwood,patina
Gift of Rod McGalliard
11 ¼ x 3 ¼ x 3 in. (28.6 x 8.3 x 7.6 cm)
1990.14.125

Images of twins, ere ibeji, represent deceased twins. The figure is lovingly cared for as if it were a living infant, to placate the deceased twin, and to keep it from luring its living twin into the spirit world. The figures are fed, clothed, washed, and rubbed with cosmetics. Some are adorned with beaded necklaces, anklets and waist beads. The black beads on this figure recall a woman’s waist beads which emphasize her sensuality, but they are also protection against the power of its twin in the spirit world.

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