Beeldje(s) - Hout - Yoruba - Nigeria

Beeldje(s) - Hout - Yoruba - Nigeria

Here we only have a single Ibeji, although in the

language of the Yoruba people, IBEJI means twin: IBI = born and EJI = two. In the Yoruba religious tradition, twins are considered to have a unique, united and inseparable soul. For this reason, when one of the twin dies, the life of the survivor is endangered, for his soul is no longer in balance. The anger of the deceased twin could put the entire family at serious risk, as this anger can cause illness and bad luck, but it can also cause infertility to the mother. In order to avoid these harmful consequences for the family, one must quickly find a way to reunite the souls of the twins. Therefore, it is necessary to consult a BABALAWO, and then to commission a little figure in wood to a sculptor: this figurine will be the trap of the soul of the deceased Twin. The BABALAWO then holds a public ceremony which aims to transfer the soul of the deceased twin into the wooden figurine. Thus, the IBEJI is the guardian of the deceased twin’s soul. This is the reason why it is treated with the same thoughtful care than the one given to the living twin. For example, when the mother breastfeeds the living twin, the Ibeji will also be positioned on the other breast; when the child is cleaned and washed, the Ibeji is also cleansed and subsequently coated with a reddish mass, called Camwood, which is a mixture of crushed red wood and palm oil. Theoretically, it is not necessary to carve these wooden statuettes if both twin die, since the union of their souls is not compromised. But in the Yoruba belief, dead twins are provided with supernatural powers, more powerful than the ones of the ancestors, so even if both babies die, a couple of IBEJI figurines is carved, in order to bring offerings to the twins or to offer sacrifices to them, but mainly to bring protection to the mother and to the whole family. The sculpture of the figurines is even carved when one or both twins, who did not die at birth, die later during infancy. The care of the Ibeji is entrusted to the mother, who will in certain tribes, wash these regularly, smear these, feed those with a sort of bean paste. She will regularly scrape off the crust which agglomerates around the mouth, once it hardens. And during festivities, ceremonies or family visits, the mother will carry the Ibeji on her back, wrapping it in her dress, as if it were a living child. It is very moving to see one or two little Ibeji heads sticking out of the maternal tunic. Sometimes we can note traces of abrasion on the neck, the chest, the arms or the legs of the statuettes. In fact, in case of illnesses or serious injuries within the family, the intercession and help of the Ibeji are implored for the person who is ill, who will, following the precise prescriptions of the Balawo, ingest “medicine”, essentially composed of chips of the Ibeji, crushed and mixed with vegetable mixture. It is the mother who, at least during the first years, takes care of the Ibeji and the figurines are placed next to her bed. Successively, these sculptures are placed in the ancestral family sanctuary, together with the ancestors’ relics. When the mother dies, the two following scenarios are possible: - if there are two Ibeji, because both twins died, no one will take care of the statuettes, since only the mother could intercede with the Ibeji and obtain their graces and favours for the family; - if there is only one Ibeji, because only one of the twins died, then the surviving twin will take over and take care of the figurine of his twin, until his own death. The Ibeji does not represent a child, as we could believe, but an adult, it has the face and the naked body of an adult. It is the sculptor who determines the artistic shape he will give to the figurine. The only element that binds him is the gender of the twin(s) he has to carve. The height of an Ibeji varies between twenty and thirty centimetres. It is standing on a rounded base, the arms are hanging downwards, the legs are short and the head is oversized, compared to the body, it presents diverse and elaborate hairstyles. Often, the Ibeji are wearing bronze or iron rings around the wrists and the ankles. These figurines are also ornamented with necklaces, bracelets, abdominal chains or earrings, made of beads in glass, coral or palm kernel. In some cases, decorations such as necklaces and bracelets are directly carved in the wood by the sculptor. In the northern regions of the Yoruba territory, where the Islamic religion is very strongly widespread, we can often observe a triangular Islamic amulet engraved on the chest or sometimes also on the back of an Ibeji. In the native language, this amulet has the name of “gri gri” or “tirah”. Often, the ankles and the wrists of these statuettes are decorated with cowrie shells, the cowry is a local currency, and in the context of an Ibeji figurine, it only indicates the wealth of a family. The wealthiest families cover their Ibeji with coats and hats ornamented with cowry shells or little beads. But the most important “natural decoration” for an Ibeji is its patina, that is, the more or less thick layer covering the wood and which is composed of different ingredients with which the Ibeji was smeared, during ritual ceremonies. The patina can sometimes be so thick that it is difficult to distinguish the facial features or even the original work of the artist. The patina, which is obtained through ritual use, is an integral part of the Ibeji and should not be removed. For the cleansing, it is recommended to use a cloth or a soft paintbrush. Great attention is recommended. It is important to note that each tribe, and even each family, had different ritual customs. Thus, we can also find very ancient Ibeji without thick patinas obtained by the use: in these cases, the initial characteristics engraved by the sculptor remain very well recognisable, despite the natural aging which occurred over the years.

Etnische groep / cultuur
Regio / land
Verkocht met standaard
10×27×17 cm
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