By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)

Nigeria; Yoruba peoples

Ere Ibeji (twin figure)

Wood, cowrie shells

H. 29.85 cm (11 3/4")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.212

The figure may be fed beans and palm oil, the favorite foods of twins.  When the face becomes dirty it is scrubbed with a handful of sand, and eventually the facial features are smoothed by this "sanding." The body of the carving is rubbed with red camwood powder mixed with oil and the hair with dark indigo dye. It may be put to bed at night with a blanket to keep it warm in the cold season. If honored in these ways, the spirit of the deceased infant may bring its parents wealth and good luck.  If neglected the spirit may bring its parents great misfortune.  The ere ibeji with vests of cowry shells were carved in the Yoruba city of Oyo, perhaps in the Ibuke family compound.  They wear vests in imitation of the dress of the senior priests of Shango.  Their faces have been worn by successive feedings and washings.