By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)

NigeriaYoruba peoples (Egba, Abeokuta)

Ere Ibeji (twin figures)

Wood, beads

H. 20 cm (8")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.488

Among the Yoruba, Shango is responsible for human fertility, and especially for twin births.  The Yoruba have one of the highest rates of twin births in the world (45/1000 births). The birth of twins is an occasion to celebrate, but it is also cause for concern, for twins can bring their parents good fortune or great trouble. Twins are more at risk at birth than children of single births, and frequently one or both may die. If one twin dies, the parents consult a diviner of Ifa, the babalawo, who may indicate that an "image of twins," ere ibeji, must be carved.  The diviner may name the artist to do this important work.  During the period that the figure is being carved, the mother sends gifts of food to the artist, and will present additional gifts when the carving is completed.  The photograph is a more contemporary, alternative way of representing twins.



Photograph by Stephen Sprague

©1983 Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona