The Yoruba people have one of the highest twin birth rates in the world. Twins are regarded as magical beings and have been granted protection by the Orisha Shango. It is believed that if a twin dies, it represents bad fortune for the family and the society that they belong to. Sculptors are commissioned to carve these ‘Ibeji’ figures to represent the deceased twin, and the family takes care of the figure as though it was human.
Large Yoruba Ibeji Style Female Figure 21″ – Nigeria
1 in stock
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Wood, pigment, metal
Repair on base of piece. Cracks throughout.
About the Yoruba People
The Yoruba are the largest cultural group on the African continent, with nearly 40 million people. The word ‘Yoruba’ describes both the language and a tribe living across Nigeria and the Popular Republic of Benin, in an area of forest and savannah.
The Yoruba people’s primary living space is South-West Nigeria with substantial Yoruba communities in Benin, Togo and Sierra Leone but they are not bound by state or country borders. This area is often referred to as “Yorubaland”. Most of the terrain is either forest, woodland savannah, rich farmland or coastal swamps and lagoons.
The origin of the Yoruba people in Nigeria is heavily debated. Some believe they came from the east in Mecca, some say from the north in Egypt. Evidence shows that ethnically, Yoruba’s have been in the area known as Yorubaland since the 7th century BC. Scholars believe the area was probably inhabited earlier by peoples of the Nok culture. Yorubaland covers the modern-day countries of Nigeria, Togo and Benin. The term Yoruba to describe ethnicity, did not come about until the 16th century and wasn’t widely used until the 19th century. Before then, the Yoruba people were known by many names depending on who was acknowledging them. For instance, the Europeans referred to them as Akú, whereas in Cuba, they were referred to as O luku mi.
Read more about the Yoruba here.
About the Ibeji Figure
The Yoruba people of Nigeria have the highest rate for twin births, about 4.5%. Twins are believed to possess special powers and share a single soul. Good fortune is thought to come to those who honor them. The ibeji figure was created to honor a deceased twin or set of twins. If one child dies, a single sculpture is made and cared for by the mother, then eventually, the surviving twin. If both children die, then two identical sculptures are made. The figures are cared for as if they are living since it is believed that their spirit resides inside the figure itself. Regular washings and offering of food is necessary. Some figures are adorned with beads and jewelry by their mother in reflection of her love and affection.