Twin Figures (Ibejis) from Yoruba, Nigeria

Artwork
Identifier:
2021.53.43ab
Artist:
Artist Unknown
Credit:
Gift of Barbara Paxon
Medium:
Carved Wood
Date:
1940s
Dimensions:
Artworks - Height: 9.5" Width: 2.75" Depth: 2.5"
Note: Each.
Description:
Pair of carved figures, very similar with slight differences. Both have pointed heads with carvings on the faces. Both have small red and white beads around their necks. Carved from one solid piece of wood for both.
Historical Context:
Yoruba peoples have one of the highest incidents of twin births in the world. As a result, twins are regarded as extraordinary beings protected by Sango, the deity of thunder. They are believed to be capable of bestowing immense wealth upon their families or misfortune to those who do not honor them. Powerful spirits in life, twins are honored with carved memorial figures when they die. These figures, known as ere ibeji (literally meaning ere: sacred image; ibi: born; eji: two), remain a point of access to the spirit of the departed individual. The mother provides ritual care to the figures, bathing, dressing, adorning, and feeding them. Such daily handling is responsible for giving their surface its distinctive patina. Ere ibeji invariably represent their subjects with mature adult physiognomies, and are often crowned with elaborate hairdos.