Archive for the 'Nigeria' Category

Object: Ibeji doll

Figure 1 Ibeji Doll from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Ibeji Doll from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/1970/4/1
Ibeji Doll
Yoruba
Nigeria, Niger Delta Region, Africa
Unknown Date
Materials: Painted Wood

Figure 2 Map of West Africa

Figure 2 Map of West Africa

The Ibeji doll tradition comes from the indigenous religion of the Yoruba. The Yoruba live in parts of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. They speak their own language and practice their indigenous religion alongside Islam and Christianity. The Yoruba have the highest twin birth rate in the world. An estimated 45 out of every 1,000 births are twins compared to the United States where every 29 out of 1,000 births result in twins[1]. The high ratio of twin births have developed into a cultural aesthetic for the Yoruba, that of Ase, or strength[2].

The Ibeji doll is always one half of a pair. These dolls represent the image of a twin who has passed. The large percentage of twins in the Yoruba population has evolved into a type of twin worship in the indigenous religion[3]. Many of these indigenous groups reside in the Oyo and Oshogbo regions of Nigeria, along the coastline, although there are small dispersals throughout their territory[4].

An Ibeji is created after one or both twins in a family die. It is crafted by a Babalawo, a spiritual guide in the community[5]. The doll is crafted from the best wood that the family can obtain along with paint in either red or black and a varnish for preservation. The doll is then created to resemble the individual that has passed as they would have appeared in adulthood[6]. There are two dolls created, one for each twin, even if only one of the twins has passed. The dolls are then decorated with beadwork or cowrie shells before being placed in a position of honor. These dolls are treated like a living human, given food and water daily, to bring luck to their family.

Additional Texts:

Religion:

Ibeji as Religious Object

Other Images of Ibeji Dolls:

Wolfz-Gallery African Arts Ibeji Collection

Other Yoruba Dolls:

Yoruba Doll

Smithsonian Yoruba Doll

[Caitlyn Colvert]

 

[1] D.D.O. Ovebola, “Traditional Medicine and Its Practitioners Among the Yoruba of Nigeria: A Classification,” Sociology, Sex, Medical 14(1980): 24.

[2] Rowland Abiodun, “Understanding Yoruba Art and Aesthetics: The Concept of Ase,” African Arts (1994), 68-70.

[3] Marcus Louis Harvey, “Engaging the Orisa: An Exploration of the Yoruba Concepts of Ibeji and Olokun as Theoretical Principles in Black Theology,” Black Theology: An International Journal 6, no. 1(2008): 64.

[4] Emily C. McIlroy, “One Half Living for Two: Cross-Cultural Paradigms of Twinship and Twin Loss,” Omega 64, no.1(2012): 5-6.

[5] J.D.Y. Peel, “The Pastor and the “Babalawo”: The Interaction of Religions in Nineteenth-Century Yorubaland,” Africa: Journal of International African Institute 60, no. 3(1990): 345.

[6] Elisha Renne, “Twinship in an Ekiti Yoruba Town,” Ethnology 40, no. 1(2001): 67.

References Cited:

Abiodun, Rowland.

1994 Understanding Yoruba Art and Aesthetics: The Concept of Ase. African Arts. 27(3): 68-78, 102-103.

Harvey, Marcus Louis.

2008 Engaging the Orisa: An Exploration of the Yoruba Concepts of Ibeji and Olokun as Theoretical Principles in  Black Theology. Black Theology: An International Journal. 6(1): 61-82.

McIlroy, Emily C.

2012 One Half Living for Two: Cross-Cultural Paradigms of Twinship and Twin Loss. Omega. 64(1): 1-13.

Ovebola, D.D.O.

1980 Traditional Medicine and Its Practitioners Among the Yoruba of Nigeria: A Classification. Sociology, Sex, Medical. 14: 23-29.

Peel, J.D.Y.

1990 The Pastor and the “Babalawo”: The Interaction of Religions in Nineteenth-Century Yorubaland. Africa: Journal of International African Institute. 60(3): 338-369

Renne, Elisha.

2001 Twinship in an Ekiti Yoruba Town. Ethnology. 40(1): 63-78.

 

Object: Mat

E/1971/2/3
Mat or fai-fai
Nigeria
ca. 1970
Materials: Grass, and dyed strips of doum palm leaves

This object is a mat made of grass that has been wrapped with dyed strips of doum palm leaves, sometimes called a fai-fai. Mats like this one are common in Nigeria and are typically used in the kitchen, where they have many uses, including being a fan for a fire, a pot holder, or lid.

The dyed outer surface of the mat is made from the leaves of the doum palm (Hyphaene thebaica). This type of tree is native to Africa and grows from Mauritania to Egypt, from Senegal to Central Africa and east to Tanzania. They tend to grow close to groundwater and can be found in oases and wadis, and is widely distributed near rivers and streams. These palm trees produce an edible fruit but are also prized for their leaves and roots which are widely used for making baskets, nets, brooms, and even some rough textiles.

Aside from its basic identification, the museum catalog contains very little information on this object, can you help us? Do you know anything about this type of mat or the people who made it? [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Object: Figurine

E/1970/4/2
Yoruba: Figurine
Africa
Materials: Woodwork

The Nigerian Ibeji dolls are figures of great symbolic importance to the Yoruba. The Yoruba live in present day southwestern Nigeria (see blue-shaded area on map at right), in tropical rain forests and northern savanna grasslands. Commonly known as Ibeji twins, carved wooden dolls like the one pictured above, are representative of the Ibeji cult of worshiping twins. The figures are also known as Ere Ibeji: “ere” meaning sacred image; “Ibi”, meaning born; and “eji”, two. The Yoruba of Nigeria have a high rate of twin births: 45 out of every 1,000 Yoruban births result in twins. Comparatively, in the US, only 29 out of 1,000 births are twins.

At one time considered a curse, twins were victims of infanticide. In the mid-1700s, opinions changed and they were revered as omens of great fortune and promise. Therefore, when a twin or both twins died, an Ibeji doll was commissioned by the parents of the deceased child. These hand carved, wooden dolls represented the spirit of the deceased twin or twins. The Yoruba people believed the spirit of the deceased twin must be placated to ensure prosperity, wealth and overall good fortune. Since the Ibeji dolls hold the position of deceased children in life, they are fed, clothed and cared for by the women of the family. Many believe that to neglect the dolls brings great misfortune to the family.

[Stephanie Adams]


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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