Ibeji twins

Ere Ibeji – Cowrie Shell Vest


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Ere Ibjei carving of twins is one of the most famous carving to come from the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria in Africa. The Yoruba tribe has the world’s largest proportion of multiple births (ibeji). Unfortunately some of the twins (ibeji) die in infancy. Formally, it was believed that twins(ibeji) shared one soul and the death of one twin (ibeji) would mean that the life of the twin (ibeji) that was still alive was in danger. To counteract this danger, the Ibeji was carved. The Ibeji signified the dead twin. Once it had been craved, it would be taken to a Babalawo (witch doctor) who would perform some rituals. Once the rituals had been performed, it was believed that the soul of the dead twin (ibeji) would reside in the Ibeji. The mother of the dead twin (ibeji) would then look after the ibeji in the same manner as she would look after the twin that was still alive, bathing the ibeji and oiling it. The wealth of the family that owned this vest can be clearly seen in the cowrie shell vest. Historically cowrie shells were used as currency in some parts of Africa therefore for this vaulabel currency to be used to decorate the vest of the Ere Ibeji gives some idea as to the wealth of the family that owned it. Cowrie shells were also used by Babalawo’s during divination sessions so in a sense the vest gives a very clear idea of what the family which owned this Ibeji would have been like.

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