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Early 20th C. African Yoruban Wood Female Ibeji Figure

West Africa, Nigeria, Yoruba peoples, ca. early to mid 20th century CE. A hand-carved wooden female "ere ibeji" figure, most likely from Oshogbo or the Igbomina region of Yorubaland (spanning Nigeria, Togo, and Benin), standing with both arms at her sides upon an integral base. She presents with large, pendulous breasts and delineated genitalia, rounded shoulders, an elongated face delineated with large bulging eyes and metal pupils, a wide, low-relief nose, cupped ears, and scarification marks on her cheeks, all crowned with a tall and elaborately-incised coiffure with remnants of its original indigo-blue pigment. Her body is also adorned with red cinnabar, and she is bedecked with three strands of beads around her neck and one arm. A wonderful example with nice patina from use and handling. Size: 9.625" H (24.4 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.

Condition: Expected surface wear commensurate with age and use, stable hairline fissures along verso, chest, and face, fading to pigmentation, and small nicks to face and body, otherwise intact and very good. Nice patina and light earthen deposits throughout.

Provenance: private Eason Eige collection, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

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