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Early 20th C. African Yoruba Wood Ibeji Twins (pr)

$1,195.00
West Africa, Yoruba culture, Ibeji, ca. early 20th c. CE. A matching pair of deceased female twin figures, known as Ibeji, most likely from Osogbo or the Igbomina region of Yoruba land, carved from an inherently beautiful wood, showing strong detailing particularly in their elaborate coiffures, the scarification marks on their cheeks, and expressive facial features, including wide open almond-shaped eyes with delineated pupils, relatively naturalistic-looking noses, and slightly parted lips as if speaking, singing, or chanting. Both are elaborately decorated with incised armbands, loincloths tied with ornamented belts, and beaded necklaces comprised of sky blue beads with coral hued central pendant beads. Beads were a sign of status and wealth among the Yoruba. A very special pair, quite well cared for! Size: taller figure measures 8.875" H (22.5 cm)

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. In addition, the deceased's soul must have a place to reside. Wooden figures, like this pair, keep the souls of the twins together. When a matched pair of twins is made, it is an indication that both human twins have died. This pair shows dark, smooth surfaces which convey the devotion and respect to the Ibeji spirit. "Ultimately, the surface of an Ibeji measures the object's spiritual value to the caregiver. The response of the Yoruba mothers and caregivers is primarily personal and spiritual, not aesthetic. Even an Ibeji carved by a mediocre artisan can develop a surface reflecting great efficacy to the believer. The wood is worked, fed, oiled, and clothed not so much to fulfill an aesthetic ideal but to fulfill a human need …" (from 'Ibeji Surface Analysis' by Charles Bordogna, in 'Surfaces' ed. Kahan, Page, Imperato, 2009 by Indiana Univ. Press). Thus, the Yoruba have traditionally had a high rate of multiple births and have always valued twins as special. When a 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. In this case, we have a matching female pair of twins. It bears repeating that one should take note of the painstaking attention to details, from their elaborately carved coiffures to the scarification marks on their faces, the incised decorative armbands, belted waist cloths, and sky blue with coral hued central pendant beaded necklaces.

Condition: Slight surface wear to coiffures, but overall excellent.

Provenance: private New York, USA collection; ex Sebastian Fernandez, New York, USA

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