West Africa, Nigeria, Yoruba peoples, ca. early 20th century CE. A Ere Ibeji figure standing atop an integral circular base, hand-carved to represent a deceased twin, adorned with scarification marks across the face, abdomen, and verso. The figure stands upon attenuated legs with broad feet and displays delineated female genitalia, a slight distended abdomen, perky breasts, rounded shoulders, and thick arms draped on both sides. A slender neck supports an enlarged head boasting raised almond-shaped eyes with applied metal pupils, incised lashes, an aquiline nose, full lips, and pointed ears, all beneath a finely-incised coiffure colored in natural indigo pigment. She wears a large belt of wooden discoid beads around her waist, with traces of cinnabar throughout the legs and body. Noteworthy to this figure are the wing-form scarification marks incised along the back, up the shoulder blades, and down the verso of each arm. A lovely example covered with beautiful chocolate-brown patina. Size: 4.75" W x 11.25" H (12.1 cm x 28.6 cm).
The Yoruba are known for their carved sculptures of deceased male and female twin figures, known as Ibeji. The Yoruba have one of the highest number of twin births in the world, four times higher than in Europe, for example. Ibeji are known to the Yoruba as two people who share one soul. According to the Yoruba, twin effigies like this example are believed to influence the daily lives of family members and especially the life of the other twin. If one of the human twins dies, whether as a child or an adult, the surviving human twin is considered to have little hope of living with only half a soul. Further, the deceased's soul must have a place to reside, hence the reason for creating Ere Ibeji figures like this. As such, they are traditionally honored with prayers, offerings, and libations to ensure peace and happiness in the afterlife.
Provenance: ex-collection of the late Peter Arnovick, San Francisco, California, USA
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Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age as expected, fading to some incised details and applied pigmentation, a few stable hairline fissures to arms, wrists, breasts, back, and posterior, and some minor nicks across body, otherwise intact and excellent. Nice earthen deposits as well as brown patina throughout. Old inventory label on base.