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Lot 145: African Wooden Male Ibeji Twin
07 November 2016
Louisville, CO, USA
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West Africa, Yoruba culture, Ibeji, ca. early 20th century. An old and well-cared for example of a deceased male twin figure, known as an Ibeji, most likely from Osogbo or the Igbomina region of Yoruba land. The Yoruba have one of the highest number of twin births in the world, four times higher than in Europe, for example. Ibeji are known to the Yoruba as two people who share one soul. If one of the human twins dies, whether as a child or an adult, the surviving human twin is considered to have little hope of living with only half a soul. When a twin dies, a figure dedicated to Ibeji, the deity of twins, is carved to be the earthly abode of the spirit of that twin. Wooden figures, like this one, are created to keep the souls of the twins together. This male figure shows darkened, worn, and smooth surfaces which convey the devotion and respect to the Ibeji spirit. Take note of the painstaking attention to details, particularly the elaborately carved coiffure painted with organic indigo violet-blue pigment, the incised scarification marks on the cheeks, chest, and belly, the red pigment remaining on surface, the incised geometric motifs adorning his loin cloth, and most impressive, the elaborate adornment with colorful beads including one earring, a necklace, three strands of black beads around the waist, and cowrie shells suspended from each side. Beads were a sign of status and wealth among the Yoruba. A wonderful example. Size: 7.875" H (20 cm)
"Ultimately, the surface of an Ibeji measures the object's spiritual value to the caregiver. The response of the Yoruba mothers and caregivers is primarily personal and spiritual, not aesthetic. Even an Ibeji carved by a mediocre artisan can develop a surface reflecting great efficacy to the believer. The wood is worked, fed, oiled, and clothed not so much to fulfill an aesthetic ideal but to fulfill a human need "....taken from 'Ibeji Surface Analysis' by Charles Bordogna, in 'Surfaces' ed. Kahan, Page, Imperato, 2009 by Indiana University Press.
Provenance: Ex-Adeon Gallery, Chicago, IL, acquired prior to 1970.
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Condition Report: One earring missing. Tiny, nearly invisible crack to left eye.