Barakat Gallery
Login | Register | User Services | Search | Newsletter Sign-up
Barakat Gallery
HOME : African & Tribal Art : Yoruba Ibeji Dolls : Female Yoruba Ibeji Twin Doll
Click to view original image.
Female Yoruba Ibeji Twin Doll - DA.411 (LSO)
Origin: Nigeria
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 11.75" (29.8cm) high
Collection: African Art
Medium: Wood & glass beads
Condition: Extra Fine

Location: United States
Currency Converter
Place On Hold
Ask a Question
Email to a Friend
Previous Item
Next Item
Photo Gallery
Click photo to change image.
Print image
Click photo to change image.
Print image
Click photo to change image.
Print image
Click photo to change image.
Print image
This well-used female figure represents one of Africa’s most enduring and charming sculptural traditions. It was carved by a diviner of the Yoruba group, at the request of a woman who had lost one of her twins. In fear of losing the other to malevolent spirits, she would commission this piece to fool them into believing that the dead twin was still alive, and that their divided spirit need not be taken away. It is essentially traditional in design, but is carved in an unusually vigorous and cubist manner. The base is round and integral, leading up to nugatory feet and short legs and then what may be a skirt or related garment. The breadth of the piece is heightened by the fact that the hands are resting on each hip, with very limited detail. The torso is blocky and angular, with rounded shoulders, pointed breasts and a long, thick neck. The Head is narrow and long, with a high, crested coiffure decorated with incised lines. The face is slightly asymmetrical, with the figure’s left eye higher than the right. The nose is long, with a narrow bridge and a wide base. The mouth is simply incised. The face is decorated with four vertical incisions on each cheek and small block incisions by the eyes. The figure is wearing a strand of light blue trade beads around the neck. These were essentially money for the Yoruba, so this may be viewed as something of an extravagant gesture. The patination is superb.

The Yoruba peoples of Nigeria have what is probably the longest extant artistic tradition in Africa. The nation state is comprised of numerous subsections that were joined historically by the rise and collapse of the Ife (12th to 15th centuries) and Benin (13th to 19th centuries) polities. Each of the sub-kingdoms – including Oyo, Ijebu and smaller units towards the west – had their heyday, and are loosely united through language and culture, although they still retain a measure of independence in terms of their artistic traditions. It is extremely hard to summarise the nature of Yoruba society given the large area they cover and the inevitable variability of their customs.

The Yoruba are sedentary, agriculturist and hierarchical, and are ruled by hereditary kings known as Obas. Access to the supernatural world is supervised by a very complex arrangement of priests and spiritual intermediaries, who straddle the cosmological border between the tangible realm of the living (aye) and the invisible realm of the spirits and the hereafter (orun). The creator of the world is Olodumare – the source of all ase (life force) – and his spiritual minions include all manner of spirits, gods and ancestors who can be appealed to or appeased through human intermediaries. Most Yoruban artistic heritage is designed to thwart evil spirits, and to placate or honour those that bring good fortune to the populace.

Yoruba populations have the world’s highest prevalence of twinning (45/1000 live births – compared to 8/1000 in the US), and this fact has been woven into their mythology, culture and art. Twins are promulgated by Shango, and are regarded as auspicious. However, the mortality rate of twins is very high. According to Yoruba convention, twins share a single soul. If one should die, the spirits may take away the second twin as well. To avoid this, the babalawo (diviner) carves a figure of the same sex as the deceased child: this figure is known as an ere ibeji. The mother must wash, dress, feed and anoint the wooden figure as if it were alive.

The appearance of the figures depends entirely upon the skill of the carver, as only the sex of the individual is specifically determined. The specific social history of the area, and its contacts with other areas or cultures, does determine the final appearance of the figures. For example, the hair of some individuals is rubbed with indigo dye, and the bodies with red camwood powder, while tribe-specific scarifications enable one to determine the origin of the figure within the Yoruba polity. Equally, most ibeji are naked, but socially elevated families often wish to manifest their wealth through dressing the figure in ornate clothing or jewellery.

The current piece commemorates the dead daughter of a grieving family. This is a beautiful yet poignant piece of African art.

- (DA.411 (LSO))


Home About Us Help Contact Us Services Publications Search
Terms and Conditions Privacy Policy Security

Copyright (c) 2000-2023 by Barakat, Inc. All Rights Reserved - TEL 310.859.8408 - FAX 310.276.1346

coldfusion hosting