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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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Doubly Blessed: The Ibeji Twins of Nigeria

Museum for African Art, 36-01 43rd Avenue, Long Island City, Queens, (718)784-7700"

Looking Both Ways: Art of the Contemporary African Diaspora." New and recent commissioned works. "Doubly Blessed: The Ibeji Twins of Nigeria." Wood carvings. Through March 1, 2004. 


13 October 2003 - 1 March 2004 Guest Curator: George Chemeche

     The fascination with twins, from biological to psychological and even supernatural, is a cross-cultural phenomenon. Among the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria, twins are associated with divinity and affluence. The Yoruba have one of the highest rates of multiple births in the world, but sadly they also experience a high instance of infant and child mortality. In response, the Yoruba have developed specific ritual practices that venerate twins and celebrate their special powers. The Museum for African Art explores this extraordinary tradition in Doubly Blessed: The Ibeji Twins of Nigeria.

 In Yoruba practice, if one or both twins die, the parents commission ibeji (or ere ibeji), small figures to represent the spirits of the deceased. These sculptures do not depict the twins as children, but as fully developed adults in the prime of life. Mothers, or the closest living relative, care for the ibeji as if they were alive, feeding, bathing, dressing and adorning them routinely, often daily. Because the spirits of twins are believed to become deities (orisha), the family must take care of their ibeji in order to appease the gods. The attention to their ibeji also ensures a peaceful and prosperous existence on earth and prevents the deceased twin from calling their living siblings to the spirit world.

      Within the confines of creating ibeji, Yoruba artists have remained continuously inventive and achieved an impressive range of sculptural forms and expressions. Doubly Blessed showcases approximately 90 figures, presenting the finest examples from public and private collections across the United States. The exhibition is curated by George Chemeche, an artist who was initially struck by the simple elegance and serenity of ibeji. For nearly forty years, he has visited major collections around the world to investigate the formal qualities and ritual function of these personal sculptures.

      The opening of this exhibition in New York will coincide with the publication of a new, comprehensive book, entitled Ibeji: The Cult of Yoruba Twins. Edited by George Chemeche with contributions by Yoruba artist Lamidi O. Fakeye and art historians John Pemberton III and John Picton, this book is sure to be the definitive text on ibeji.

      Through the grace and charm of each figure, Doubly Blessed: The Ibeji Twins of Nigeria tells the captivating story of the vital ritual practices surrounding ibeji and instills in its visitors an appreciation for the aesthetic values and artistic traditions of the Yoruba peoples.


related: if you want to read a critic on a book  about  Ibeji, the cult of Yoruba twins


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