country: ghana & togo
material: wood, paint
size: 9.25" (23.5 cm)
provenace: private USA estate collection
As the Yoruba in Nigeria do, their eastern neighbours, the Ewe in Togo and Ghana honor their twins. And similar to how the Yoruba create carved ibeji twin figures’ in memory of deceased twins, vicarious sculptures for dead twins are also produced amongst the Ewe. The Ewe call these figures ‘venavi’ and they are stylistically different from typical Yoruba ibeji carvings. ‘Venavi’ are carved from light, light-colored wood, generally from the wood of the kapok tree. Venavi are often simpler, more basic carvings and are usually monochrome except for the hairstyle or/and the feet that are sometimes accented in black pant. The proportions of the Ewe venavi are more realistic in comparison to the Ibeji of the Yoruba. Nevertheless, the ‘classical’ Ewe style stipulates a very stereotyped pose for the venavi’: rigid, standing emphatically upright, and with both arms and hands always separated from the body, pointing directly downwards. This characteristic style can also be recognized in the ‘venavi figure’ offered here. This ‘venavi’ figure perfectly embodies the style of the Ewe carvers.