Healing of Abiku Children

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
pigment on wood, carved
Dimensions
51 3/8 x 51 9/16 in. | 130.5 x 131.0 cm.
Credit line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Eiteljorg
Accession number
1993.82
Currently On View In
Eiteljorg Suite of African and Oceanic Art - W303

Twins Seven-Seven was born in Ibadan, Nigeria. He changed his name from Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale because he is the only survivor of seven sets of twins by his mother. In the 1960s he joined an art workshop in Oshogbo, Nigeria that was established by Georgina and Ulli Beier, two German painters. At the beginning of his profession he exhibited his art in Nigeria, Germany and England. This helped to establish his career as an internationally recognized artist and his works are in public and private collections around the world.

Healing of Abiku Children depicts a religious practice. In Yoruba belief, abiku is a child who dies shortly after being born and is reborn several times into the same family. In order to halt this cycle of death and rebirth mothers bring their children to a divination priest. In the center of this picture is a mother who has brought her twins to a priest, who is seated in the structure behind the mother. Other women in the background assist in the ritual by bringing supplies.

Twins Seven-Seven developed a distinct style. The surfaces of his works are covered from edge to edge with intricate, curved patterns. Images or abstract patterns occupy every available space.

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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Densely populated with intricate patterns and active figures, this painting depicts a Yoruba ritual. The Yoruba believe that infants who die shortly after birth are continually reborn into the same family. These reborn spirits are known as abiku. The scene depicts mothers bringing their children to a divination priest, who performs a ritual intended to break the cycle of new incarnations and entice the child spirit to remain with the community.

Healing of Abiku Children is dominated by a large mother-figure, who faces the viewer as she awaits guidance from the priest framed in a doorway to her right. The scene teems with people engaged in various tasks; their large, prominent eyes and the linear scarification marks on their cheeks represent traditional Yoruba ideals of beauty.

The artist is the only survivor of seven sets of twins. Formerly known as Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale, he changed his name to Twins Seven-Seven in the early 1960s, when he first became successful. His work fuses personal vision with classical Yoruba elements, resulting in a distinctive style characterized by rhythmic designs that often fill the entire picture plane. Some of his works, like this one, cross categories by realizing a sculptural quality due to the layering of cut-out and painted wood. Trained in the workshop of German painters in Nigeria in the 1960s, Twins Seven-Seven is one of that country's most prominent and versatile contemporary artists.

An abiku [is] a child who, according to Yoruba belief, is born to die.
-Dele Jẹgẹdẹ, 2000