From the Collection: Ibeji Figures


2002-293-1,2clothed These beautifully sculpted ibeji figures joined the collection in 2002. “Ibeji” is a term in the Yoruba language meaning “twins”: ibeji from “ibi,” meaning “born,” and “eji,” meaning “two.” The Yoruba are a major African ethnic group known for having an extraordinarily high rate of multiple births.


“Since in Yoruba traditional religion, each person is one soul in the long line of ancestral souls, twins are complex, sharing the same soul – but one of the two is thought to have the spiritual half of the soul while the other has the mortal half. Since there is no way to determine which has the mortal soul and which the spiritual soul, if one twin should die, a carving is commissioned to represent the deceased child. …[Carvings] are often well tended. The Yoruba people believe that this care and tending helps ensure the survival of the other twin.” (source)1999-158-1,2Also from the collection is the following photograph by Ulli Beier, from his Yoruba Children series. Depicted are two toddlers (not specified as twins) captivated by the two small ibeji figures standing at their feet.


Click here to see more ibeji figures in the collection.

image sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4





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