Yoruba Ibeji Twin Figures with Beaded Garment
Nigeria, West Africa
Wood, pigment, beaded garment.
The Yoruba have one of the highest rate of twin births in the world. Twins have the power to bring good luck to parents who honor them; and misfortune to those who do not. Everything possible is done to please twin children. Mothers will hire talking drum musicians to sing praise songs and solicit gifts from people at the marketplace. Should one or both pair of twin children die, statues called Ibeji (ee bay jee) are carved as a memorial to them. In the Yoruba pantheon of gods there exist 401 orisa (oh ree SAH) who represent deified ancestors and the forces of nature. The Yoruba believe twins have the power of an orisa and when they die become orisa. Orisa Ibeji is the protective guardian of twins. Twins also receive special protection from orisa Sango who rules over thunder, lightning, rain, and fertility. Traditionally the first born twin, regardless of sex and considered the younger of the two, is named Taiwo, meaning "comes-to-taste-life." The second born is Kehinde, which means "comes-last." Kehinde is considered the eldest twin who sends Taiwo first to see if the world is a good place to live. Ibeji statues are ritually fed a favorite food of red palm oil and beans, said to cool the tempers of twins. The images depicted here are carved as adults with incised facial and body tribal markings. They wear a beaded garment called Ewu. At night the statues are placed on the family twin alter kept in the mother's sleeping room.