Ibeji (twin) figures (Nigeria, Yoruba)

Objects from this contributor

Ibeji (twin) figures (Nigeria, Yoruba)

These figures were given to me as a personal gift in 1961, by HH the Ataoja [Chief] of Oshogbo, Oba Adenle the Second. He told me they had come from the family shrine of a family that had converted to Islam and therefore removed their pagan images from their home. Oshogbo is a Yoruba town in western Nigeria.

"Ibeji" means "twin". In traditional Yoruba culture, twins are regarded as sharing one soul. If one twin dies in infancy, the family have a wooden figure carved, to symbolise the dead twin. They tend this image as if it were alive: feeding, bathing, clothing, caressing it, and performing rituals on significant occasions, to restore the balance of the soul.

My 2 figures are both female. Carved in wood, similar in appearance (one slightly smaller than the other), apparently from the same carver. The hair is represented by narrow vertical lines, blue-painted. No tribal markings on the faces. The surface has a polished sheen (apparently from much handling), and there are traces of red ochre powder in the carved body incisions. Each figure has a necklace of tiny blue and red ceramic beads. One also has bead bracelets and anklets. The eye pupils are represented by iron nails.

Comments are closed for this object

Most of the content on A History of the World is created by the contributors, who are the museums and members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC or the British Museum. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site’s House Rules please Flag This Object.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.