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Pair of twin figures, "ere ibeji", originated from Yoruba, Nigeria
Made out of varved wood, glass beads.



H 24 cm.
- Galerie Walu Zurich (1980).
- Burkhardt Collection.


People have always puzzled over twins: deified or demonised, in legends and myths, even in astrology, we find the pairs as an expression of the fascination they exude. This is also the case among the Yoruba in southwestern Nigeria, who can demonstrably claim the highest twin birth rate in the world.


Among the Yoruba, special supernatural powers are attributed to twins. On the one hand, they bring good luck, health and prosperity to the family, and on the other, they can ward off disaster, illness and death. For this reason, they enjoy special interest throughout their lives.

For the Yoruba, twins have a common indivisible soul. If one of the twins dies, the balance of this unity is disturbed and the surviving twin is consequently endangered. To avoid this, a wooden figure called ibeji is consecrated in a ceremonial ritual as a symbolic substitute dwelling place for the soul of the deceased.


The well-being of the second twin then depends on the care and veneration of this ibeji. At the same time, another figure is also made to house the soul of the second twin. Once both twins have died, the figurines continue to be carefully guarded and kept as a memento until no one can remember the deceased.


Further reading:
Chemeche, George (2003). Ibeji. The Cult of Yoruba Twins. Milano: 5 Continents Editions.


Pair of twin figures, "ere ibeji"