West Africa, Nigeria, Yoruba peoples, ca. early 20th century CE. A set of hand-carved wooden Ere Ibeji figures depicting a matched pair of female twins. The figures have similar faces composed of large eyes with metal pupils, petite noses, open mouths, and extensive scarification marks, all beneath an incised conical coiffure. The sisters stand atop attenuated, delineated legs and broad feet, each with a slightly-distended abdomen, perky breasts, rounded shoulders, and drooping arms. One figure wears a pair of beaded necklaces, a pair of metal hoops around its wrists, and a metal ring around one ankle, while the other twin wears a single necklace and a pair of beaded rings around its ankles. Covered in lovely brown patina, this is a wonderful pair of carved twin figures! Size of largest (two ankle rings): 3.25" W x 11.75" H (8.3 cm x 29.8 cm).
The Yoruba are known for their carved sculptures of deceased male and female twin figures, known as Ibeji. The Yoruba have one of the highest number of twin births in the world, four times higher than in Europe, for example. Ibeji are known to the Yoruba as two people who share one soul. According to the Yoruba, twin effigies like this example are believed to influence the daily lives of family members and especially the life of the other twin. If one of the human twins dies, whether as a child or an adult, the surviving human twin is considered to have little hope of living with only half a soul. Further, the deceased's soul must have a place to reside, hence the reason for creating Ere Ibeji figures like this. As such, they are traditionally honored with prayers, offerings, and libations to ensure peace and happiness in the afterlife.
Provenance: ex-collection of the late Peter Arnovick, San Francisco, California, USA
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