Ere ibeji doll
Wood, glass beads, shell, iron, string, pigment
H: 31.5 cm, W: 8.2 cm, D: 6.5 cm (H: 12.4 in, W: 3.2 in, D: 2.5 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Mary Stansbury Ruiz. X87.1599a
Another category of African dolls used by adults is those made to honor twins and placate the ancestral spirits. The Yoruba ere ibeji are the best-known examples of this type. These southwestern Nigerian peoples believe twins to have many playful characteristics; they are “feisty, unpredictable, and fearless”. Because twins have consistently low birth weights (caused by a number of factors, like premature birth), one twin often dies and “calls” the soul of the other to join him. To appease the deceased twin, a small anthropomorphic figure is carved to receive his or her spirit. It protrays the deceased twin as an adult, incorporating appropriate symbols of the status that would have been achieved or received had the child lived. The mother feeds, bathes, and dresses the carving when she feeds, bathes, and dresses the surviving twin. When, in a weekly ritual performed for twins, she goes to market to beg for her living child, she begs for the deceased one as well. The ere ibeji is never abandoned, however, as a child’s play doll might be. When the living twin is able, he or she takes over the care of the figure, or it is given over to the care of a “mother of twins.” In cases where both twins die, dolls are created and cared for so that the living and future members of the family will not be harmed.
Source: Cameron, Elisabeth L. (1996) “Isn’t S/He a Doll?”, Los Angeles, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. page 32