A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
Doubly Blessed: The Ibeji Twins of Nigeria
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.
related: if you want to read a critic on a book about Ibeji, the cult of Yoruba twins
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