Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Ère Ìbeta Triplets

Catalog Number: D032




29 cm x 5 cm



11.5 in x 2 in


Religion and Denomination: Yoruba indigenous religion (Yoruba)
Transatlantic Family of Religion: Orisha
Country of Origin: Benin Republic
Ethnographic Origin: Yoruba
Materials: Beads
Usage: Ritual (used)
Detailed Description of Significance:

This set of child figurines is highly unusual compared to the more common twin figurines (ère ìbejì).  That these three figures look virtually identical suggests that they were sculpted by the same carver around the same time.  The appear to represent triplets (ìbẹ̀ta)–two boys and a girl–who died around the same time.  Alternatively, they may have been commissioned as a complement to the lives of triplets who survived.  Their hairstyle and facial scarifications (kẹ́kẹ́) suggests that they lived somewhere between the city of Ògbómọ̀shọ́  They sport an unusually diverse array of old and expensive beads.  The female wears indigenous blue glass shẹ̀gi with an accent of málọjọ̀, which is red, around her neck.  Her waist beads are of tiny lágidigba polished coconut shell.  The beads of her anklet resemble the red-and-black-striped ẹ̀ǹlà.  One boy has a necklace of tiny jìngbìnnín (chevron) and shẹ̀gi, with a red stone okùn bead as an accent.  His bracelet is of tiny ẹ̀ǹlà beads.  Talabi Adedoyin Faniyi, the chief priestess of Ọ̀shun in the city of Òshogbo infers that each figure once had a necklace, waist beads, and an anklet.  

The Yoruba are a major African ethnic group.  In their culture twins are traditionally very important beings.  In the Yoruba language “ibeji” literally means twins.”  Carved wooden figures made to house the soul of a dead twin are also called ibeji. These wooden figures are typically, six to ten inches high and carved with the family facial scarifications would normally be bathed, clothed and fed as are the living children of the family.   Many Yoruba people believe that this care and tending helps ensure the survival of the living twin.  In Yoruba indigenous religion, there is a deity who represents twins.   

This is a triplet set of the sibling pairing known in Yoruba ìbẹẹ̀ta. Although typically represented in pairings of 2, there are some carvings that show other types of multiple sibling pairings. Either way, Ibeyi are highly looked after and treated with unique honors in Yoruba religion. These pairings are under the protection of Shango, the God of thunder and lightening. The Yoruba believe that twins pairings have supernatural powers, and thus much effort is put into ensuring that neither of the twins are neglected. In life, this means equal treatment, even for major events like weddings. Twins should be married together. If one of the twins is ready to be married before their counterpart, the other twin must also have a wedding, with a stand in bride or groom in the ceremony. In death, for either one or both twins, and Ibeyi statue should be carved out and the twin’s parents should continue to treat this carving as it would treat a living child by feeding, singing to, and caring for it.