Ancestor Shrines

By Eileen Moyer
University of Amsterdam (formerly University of Iowa)

Fon people, Benin, children and twin figures. Photo by Dana Rush.

Among Fon, Ewe, and Minah peoples inhabiting southern Benin, Togo, and Ghana, twins are known as hoxovi or hoxojijo, a twin that is born again. Like their Yoruba neighbors, peoples in this region believe that twins are a blessing from God, and they also commission carvings of deceased twins that must be taken care of as if they were living children. Since 1952, the city of Ouidah has hosted an annual twin festival, which attracts twins from all over Benin. Before the festival, commemorative cloth is decided on, and all of the twins who can afford it, both living and deceased, dress in the outfits fashioned out of it. Often when mothers of twins buy cloth, they reserve small pieces of the fabric to sew outfits for their twin. During the festival of 1995 many twins were dressed in pink and white outfits. Living twins of all ages bring their sculpted sister or brother to the annual festival to feed and venerate it. Hoxovi are placed on shrines and must be fed. Hoxo kuekue (oranges and bananas) are among their favorite foods.