Small Vintage Carved Male Ibeji, Africa, Nigeria, Yoruba People (1963BHA)


H: 7.125″  W: 2.125″  D: 2.25″

This small but finely carved vintage hardwood Ibeji has distinctive Yoruba features. His elongated head is flat with full lips, thick eyelids and incised lashes, flat circular prominent ears, and the nose and chin are centered. The cheeks and eyes are on opposite sides of thin conical head. His stylized coiffure devides each side into sections with linear plaited designs. Scarifications appear across his face and throughout his body and his strong stance with hands attached to hips is supported by massive legs low to the ground. His member is visible, the triangular buttocks jut outward and both are signs of his fertility and power as are his thick rounded shoulders and arms.


Ibeji carvings from the Yoruba people in West Africa, especially Nigeria, are seen as idealized Tribal-Art conforming to Yoruba artistic and cultural conventions that do not closely reflect human likenesses. Symmetrical and restrained with oversized and elongated heads which is where one’s spirit, intelligence, and the seat of divine power lie, Ibeji heads like this have detailed linear coiffures and can be a third or more of the figure’s body size. Having one of the world’s highest rates of twin births but a high mortality rate, Yoruba have developed a twin cult revering deceased twin(s) as potent spirits, call them ere Ibeji and honor them with carved images to access their spirits and souls. The Ere Ibeji were identical carvings signifying the “unity in duality” that represented the twins. They reflect three significant Yoruba traditions: the importance of twins, a strong belief in the afterlife, and their idealized form of beauty and being a righteous example. Never portrayed as children, they were depicted as the ideal of Yoruba beauty in the prime of life, which is neither as a child nor an older person and each of the carvings’ features symbolized the moral virtue and inner goodness that should be cultivated by all children. They were small for ease of handling and generally made of rubber tree wood because of its fine grain, its density, the mystical power associated with it, and, when rubbed with oil, it resulted in its fine patina. Mothers of the deceased commissioned village carvers, often trained priests, to hand craft spiritual representations of the twin who died which served as vessels or resting places to contain the deceased twin’s spirit. In the past five decades demand for the hand carved commissioned Ibeji’s has diminished, and since the 1970’s preferences have switched to purchasing manufactured, imported dolls, and photographs instead of wood figures.

Additional information

Weight 2 lbs
Dimensions 12 × 9 × 6 in

Vintage (1920-1980)



Materials and Technique


Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 7.125” W: 2.125” D: 2.25”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 7.125” W: 2.125” D: 2.25”



Reference Number


Shipping Box Size


Very good, patina and wear consistent with age and use


6” to 11.9”