Yoruba, Nigeria

Ere Ibeji

20th century

Wood with trade beads

Gift of George Ellis in memory of his wife Nancy Ellis


The term beji> in the Yoruba language literally means twins, which the Yoruba believe are powerful spirits. If one of the twins dies a statue or ere ibeji is immediately carved to take the place of the deceased twin. This doll must be treated just as the living twin—bathed, fed, and cared for by the family—and is often placed on an altar in the home. This protects the household from evil and also ensures that the spirit of the deceased child will return to Earth in human form in the future. The female figure at left was separated from its mate. Its wear suggests that it is an older example.

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