A carved wooden "Venovi" twin statuette
Ewe People, Gabon or Togo
Early 20th Century
Measures (approx.) 20.6 cm high (including plinth)
Private collection Oxfordshire, U.K.
Carved from light wood into the form of a female. The hair parted and stained. Breasts, eyebrows, navel and feet stained. Ears pierced for decoration (now absent). Arms carved by sides; hands with carved fingers. Now mounted on an acrylic plinth.
This statuette was made by Ewe people of Ghana/Gabon/Togo. These figuringes, which occupy a similar role to the ibedji fetish statuettes of Nigeria's Yoruba people, are called "venovi" or "venavi". With high rates of gemellary pregnancies, the Ewe attach great importance to twins. Should a twin ever be lost in childbirth a figurine is carved to represent the lost child and look over and protect the remaining one. The figure, which represents the sex of the deceased child, is placed within a shrine to be cared for and venerated.
For an image of a Ewe girl holding dressed puppets representing deceased siblings see the final image taken from p.217 of Gert Chesi, "The Last Africans" [3rd Edition], Perlinger Verlag, Wörgl, Austria, 1981.
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