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Friday, July 30, 2010


Following on from our visit to Gape Aloyi we have come to learn that they have a high percentage of twins and even whilst we were there on our first visit a set of twin boys were born.
The Yoruba people boast a twin birth rate of 4.5-5%. They believe that the twin that emerges first from the womb is considered to be the younger of the two. Whether male or female, this twin is named Taiwo, which literally means, “experiencing the first taste of the world.” Taiwo is believed to be directed by the older twin, Kehinde (also male or female), to explore the world outside the womb and confirm whether it is okay to come out. Taiwo’s cry, after he or she emerges, is a sign to the older twin that it is safe to come out; Kehinde, which means “comes last”, then makes his or her way out of the womb and is considered to be wiser and more cautious than his or her younger sibling. With such a high rate, twins are perceived as a sign of fertility, they are believed to possess powers over wealth, health, and happiness, as well as over suffering and destruction. So care is often taken in giving them respect, love, and care. Parents will often seek the blessings of the “Babalawo" (the divination priest) 3 days after their twins are born. He supposedly drives out any evil spirits that may harm the children and educates the parents on how to raise them, including instructions on the color and type of clothing or jewellery for them to wear, foods that they should eat and animals they should avoid.
According to tradition, twins have two halves of the same soul. If one twin dies they believe that the balance of the soul is upset. Subsequently the Babalawo would direct a carver to sculpt a small figure that symbolizes the dead child, or in rare cases, 2, if both twins die. They believe that the sculptures house the soul of the dead twin and are called “Ibeji” which means, the sacred image of twins. They are believed to possess as much powers as the twins and are treated with a lot of respect. Like real children, these statues are bathed, fed, clothed and carried around. They are particularly special to mothers who pamper them and keep them close to their beds, occasionally rubbing them with red wood powder in order to give them a glossy look. They are caressed frequently and their birthdays are celebrated with rituals and prayers.
Here are some twin sculptures that we saw in a local museum in Lome.
Why the high birth rate? There are many conclusions, the favourite one is the large consumption of yams. So if you want twins, try eating yams for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

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