April 10, 2010 through May 05, 2010

Melissa Hogan - Ibeji Photographs

LightBox Photographic Gallery features the work of Melissa Hogan. Hogan’s body of work focuses on Ibijis through photographs of wooden figures from Nigeria. Traditionally these figures were believed to house the soul a lost twin. These symbolic photographs are both powerful and deeply profound.

Through her photographs of these figures, Melissa Hogan offers a very personal glimpse into the culture of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Among the Yoruba, twin births were and are frequent. It was believed that the birth of twins brought good fortune to a family and there was a god of twins, Orisa Ibeji. If one of the twins died at birth or later it was a catastrophe, because the special powers of twin children resided in the one soul they shared between them. The remaining child had only half a soul. The Yoruba word for “twin” is “ibeji”. The village woodcarver created a wooden replica to house the deceased twin’s soul and the local diviner induced the soul to enter into the doll. From then onward the family treated the doll as a live child, feeding and clothing it just as they fed and dressed the living twin. Many years later, when both the twins were only a memory, families needing cash sold the dolls to traders. Melissa and her husband collected a dozen or more of these dolls when her family lived in Nigeria in the late 1960’s.

The surface of these little figures tells much about their individual histories: some have been partially eaten by ants, some have been repaired with sawdust paste, others have burn marks and many of them have features worn from years of handling. This patina as well as the photographs themselves tell the story of these families.

Melissa Hogan has shown in Europe, Canada, and the U.S.

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