Western Africa, Nigeria, Yoruba peoples, ca. early 20th century CE. A hand-carved wooden male "ere ibeji" figure, most likely from Oshogbo or the Igbomina region of Yorubaland (spanning Nigeria, Togo, and Benin), standing with both arms at his sides upon an integral circular base. The figure presents with thick thighs, broad feet, and delineated genitalia, with rounded shoulders and a thick neck defining his powerful stature. The stylized head has large bulging eyes with metal pupils, a wide, low-relief nose, cupped ears, and scarification marks on his cheeks, all crowned with a tall and elaborately-incised coiffure with remnants of its original indigo-blue pigment. A fabulous example! Size: 2.5" W x 7.75" H (6.4 cm x 19.7 cm).
The Yoruba have traditionally had a high rate of multiple births and have always valued twins as special. When one twin dies, a figure dedicated to Ibeji, - the deity of twins - is carved to be the earthly abode of the spirit of that twin. The figure is then nurtured by the mother and/or the surviving twin. 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. 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, a figure dedicated to Ibeji is carved to shelter the spirit of the deceased twin.
Provenance: ex-private Sarkisian collection, Denver, Colorado, USA
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