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Lot 99G: Superb Early African Wooden Female Ibeji Twin
27 October 2016
Louisville, CO, USALive Auction
West Africa, Yoruba, ca. early 20th century CE. A hand-carved wooden female "ere ibeji" figure, standing with both arms and hands at her sides upon an integral base. She presents with large, projecting breasts and a protruding perhaps pregnant belly incised with vertical and horizontal scarification marks, rounded shoulders, an elongated face delineated with closed lips, a wide, low relief nose, large bulging eyes with metal pupils, pointed ears, scarification marks on her cheeks, crowned with a tall and elaborately incised coiffure composed of two upswept sections embellished with indigo/violet blue pigment. She is also bedecked with strands of beads, a sign of her elite status; around her neck are a short strand of blue beads and a a multi-strand necklace of red and white beads; around her waist are one strand of blue beads and three strands of black beads; around her left wrist are two bracelets, one comprised of white beads, the other of multi-colored red, white, and blue beads; and finally around her right wrist one bracelet of blue beads and another metal bracelet covered with red pigment. A wonderful example with nice patina from use and handling.
The Yoruba have traditionally had a high rate of multiple births and have always valued twins as special. When one twin dies, a figure dedicated to Ibeji, the deity of twins, is carved to be the earthly abode of the spirit of that twin. The figure is then nurtured by the mother and/or the surviving twin. 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. Further, the deceased's soul must have a place to reside. Hence, a figure dedicated to Ibeji is carved to shelter the spirit of the deceased twin.
Provenance: Ex-Adeon Gallery, Chicago, IL, acquired prior to 1970.
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Condition Report: Intact with a few stable age fissures and nice patina.