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The Perception of Twin-hood in West Africa

The Perception of Twin-hood in West Africa

Doris Ukaonu
Twin Sisters

“Twinhood is a richer and more universal subject than expected at first sight”- Kurzen and De Wilde.

An area of West Africa is most heavily populated by the Yoruba tribe and has 10 times more twins than any other region in the world. In a recent project titled Land of Ibeji by Bénédicte Kurzen, and Sanne De Wilde,  explored the subject of twin-hood among the Yorubas. But twin-hood among the Yoruba encompasses a wide spectrum of meanings, the phenomenon is celebrated in some communities and demonized in others.

Kurzen and De Wilde visited different regions and photographed pairs of twins in each of those places. Starting from Gwagwalada, a town near Abuja, which serves as a safe haven for twins at risk of being killed for the bad luck they are believed to bring to the community. Then they traveled to Igbo-Ora, where almost every family has a pair of twins. There they are celebrated year-round as a symbol of good fortune.

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Things are pretty much the same in Calabar, known as Home of Twins, following the influence of the 19th-century Scottish missionary Mary Slessor, who helped stop twin infanticide among the Ibibio people. According to Kurzen and De Wilde, “It is ultimately about discovering that we share a universal experience and that symbol is the twin.”

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