Cyprus Mail
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Loss and love: Yoruba twin figures from Nigeria

In this video, art historians Dr. Peri Klemm and Dr. Steven Zucker discuss the cultural significance of a pair of Yoruba Ère Ìbejì twin figures housed at the Brooklyn Museum.

The Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa have one of the highest birth rate of twins in the world, with 45 of every 1,000 children born a twin, but also have a high mortality rate. In Yoruba culture, twins are considered to possess special powers: they are believed to be one soul, and must be cared for accordingly.

So, if a twin dies in infancy, the family have a wooden figure carved to represent the dead twin. These carvings are called ‘ere ibeji’, with ‘ere’ meaning ‘sacred image’, ‘ibi’, meaning ‘born’ and ‘eji’ meaning ‘two’. The family look after this figure as if it were alive: feeding, bathing, clothing, carrying it like a baby and performing rituals on significant occasions, to ensure the balance of the shared soul.

View the original video here.

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