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Yoruba Ibeji

Nigeria

Ere Ibeji twin figure

Carved wood, pigments, fabric and cowrie shells
Early 20th century

Height: 13 ½ in. (34 cm)

Acquired from J.J. Klejman, New York in the 1960s
Ex private collection, USA

Published: PAD – Paris Tribal 2016

Price: sold

Western Africa
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These statuettes linked to twin worship, are called ere ibeji in the Yoruba language: ere signifying ‘a sacred image’, ibi ‘born’ and eji ‘a double’.
Symbols of prestige, wealth and fecundity, ere ibeji figures also guaranteed the perpetuation of future generations. These effigies of ancestors were an integral part of everyday life, punctuating the family life of the Yoruba. Subject to very codified rituals, ere ibeji figures were pampered, with their care including feeding, washing and oiling.
They were considered to be living beings, a reincarnation of ancestor-twins. Representations always showed them at the peak of their strength and power in adulthood.
The ere ibeji presented here is distinguished by its spectacular cloak ornamented with cowry shells, both a symbol and promise of wealth. The high-quality artistry of its carving, in particular the refined rendering of the coiffure is also noteworthy. Acquired in the 1960s from New York gallery J.J. Klejman, it had been in a private American collection since then.