This exhibition explores the power and prevalence of “two-ness” in Yorùbá art and thought with an impressive display of more than 250 carved wood twin memorial figures, known as ere ibeji. The Yorùbá, who live in southwestern Nigeria as well as Togo and Benin, have one of the highest rates of twinning in the world, and special attention is paid to twins, both in life and after. These works from the Fowler’s extraordinary collection display a remarkable stylistic range and illuminate issues of apprenticeship and mastery, local innovation and invention, and how they were treated and transformed once they left the sculptors’ hands and moved into the hands, hearts, and minds of family members. A newly commissioned installation by contemporary artist Simone Leigh will incorporate the West African plastic dolls (that sometimes substitute for the carved figures) in a dramatic suspended work.
This exhibition was curated by Henry John Drewal, Evjue-Bascom Professor of African and African Diaspora Arts, University of Wisconsin, Madison, with Betsy D. Quick, Director of Education and Curatorial Affairs, Fowler Museum at UCLA.