Vintage Yoruba Ere Ibeji with Thick Sandals, Nigeria (1967LAE)


H: 9.5″  W: 3.25″  D: 3″

This Nigerian tribal carving displays the distinctive Yoruba artistic and cultural conventions of Ere Ibeji images.  It is symmetrical and restrained with an oversized and elongated conical-shaped head that is about a third of the figure’s body. He has characteristic round bulging eyes with thick eyelids and triangular incised lashes, flared nostrils, prominent ears, full smiling lips, and triple scarification on each cheek. His coiffure is detailed with parallel vertical plaits on both sides. His detailed necklace with large triangular pendants covers his chest and back, and his covered genitals and triangular shaped buttocks are signs of his fertility. His power is reinforced by short, massive legs, unusually wide arms and strong shoulders.  His remarkably high thick sandals that make him appear larger add to the uniqueness of this impressive vintage piece.



Having one of the world’s highest rates of twin births but a high mortality rate, the Yoruba in West-Africa, especially Nigeria, have developed a “twin cult” revering deceased twin(s) as potent spirits, calling them ere Ibeji and honoring them with carved images to access their spirits and souls after death. The Ere Ibeji were identical African-carvings signifying the “unity in duality” that symbolically 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. 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, who were 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. 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. Carved features emphasized a conical head with an elaborate hairstyle, round eyes and facial features, and a balanced body, each feature symbolizing the moral virtue and inner goodness that should be cultivated by all children. The Tribal-Art figures were generally placed in a home altar in the living quarters dedicated to Eshu, (Elegba) a benevolent protective spirit who is a messenger between heaven and earth. Mothers ritually feed, wash, and clothe them daily and offer prayers, sacrifices and spiritual care.  In the past five decades demand for the folk art 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.


Africartmarket Today, Yoruba Ere-Ibeji, 2022.

Dr. Peri Klemm, Ere Ibeji Figures (Yoruba peoples), Khan Academy.

Additional information

Dimensions 12 × 9 × 6 in

Vintage (1920-1980)



Materials and Technique


Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 9.5” W: 3.25” D: 3”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 24.15cm W: 8.25cm D: 7.62cm




Very good, patina and wear consistent with age and use

Reference Number


Shipping Box Size


6” to 11.9”