Pair of Ibeji, authenticated by the Department of Antiquities of Nigeria
Ibeji (known as Ibejí, Ibeyí, or Jimaguas in Latin America) is an Orisha. They are syncretized with Saints Cosmas and Damian. In Yoruba culture twins are believed to be magical, and are protected by a deity named shango. If a twin should die, it represents bad fortune for the parents and the society to which they belong. The parents therefore commission a babalawo to carve an ibeji to represent the deceased twin, and the parents take care of the figure as if it were a real person. Other than the sex, the appearance of the ibeji is determined by the sculptor. The parents then dress and decorate the ibeji to represent their own status, using clothing made from cowrie shells, as well as beads, coins and paint. Ibeji figures are admired by tribal art collectors and many have made their way into western collections. The world's largest collection of Ibejis is at the British Museum, London.