Lot 11: Early 20th C. Yoruba Ibeji Carved Wood Male Figure
November 7, 2016
Louisville, CO, USA
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**Originally listed for 200.
West Africa, Yoruba culture, Ibeji, ca. early 20th century. An old and well-cared for example of a deceased male member of a twin figural pair, known as Ibeji, most likely came from Osogbo or the Igbomina region of Yoruba land. 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. 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. Wooden figures, like this pair, keep the souls of the twins together. When a matched pair of twins is made, it is an indication that both human twins have died. This pair shows darkened, worn, and smooth surfaces which convey the devotion and respect to the Ibeji spirit. "Ultimately, the surface of an Ibeji measures the object's spiritual value to the caregiver. The response of the Yoruba mothers and caregivers is primarily personal and spiritual, not aesthetic. Even an Ibeji carved by a mediocre artisan can develop a surface reflecting great efficacy to the believer. The wood is worked, fed, oiled, and clothed not so much to fulfill an aesthetic ideal but to fulfill a human need "....taken from 'Ibeji Surface Analysis' by Charles Bordogna, in 'Surfaces' ed. Kahan, Page, Imperato, 2009 by Indiana Univ. Press. Thus, the Yoruba have traditionally had a high rate of multiple births and have always valued twins as special. When a twin dies, a figure dedicated to Ibeji, the deity of twins, is carved to be the earthly abode of the spirit of that twin. The figure is then nurtured by the mother and/or the surviving twin. In this case, we have a male twinmember. Take note of the painstaking attention to details, from its elaborately carved coiffure painted with organic blue pigment to the incised eyelashes surrounding his metal eyes. Generous red pigment remains on surface of the figure. A wonderful example Size: 11.5" H (29.2 cm);
Provenance: Ex-Adeon Gallery, Chicago, IL, acquired prior to 1970.
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Condition Report: Minor abrasion to base, minor surface wear commensurate with age. Overall very good.