Seeing Double: The Photographer Capturing Twins in Nigeria

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Lagos-based photographer Stephen Tayo speaks to AnOther about IBEJI, which focuses on twins in Nigeria

Ibeji is the name of the Orisha deity which represents and protects twins in West African and diasporic Yoruba culture. Twins have historically been celebrated as a sign of good fortune by the Yoruba people – an ethnic group originating from Yorubaland, an area in and around present-day Nigeria. This is perhaps one of the most important topics in Nigeria. Obo State is colloquially known as "the land of the twins".

Ibeji can be translated to mean "the arrival of two", Nigerian photographer Stephen Tayo tells AnOther. Tayo, who is from Ikere-Ekiti but is based in Lagos, IBEJI . His Yoruba Culture, Yoruba Culture. The project developed out of local customs and beliefs in an increasingly globalized world, where Western attitudes continue to dominate, if not monopolize, cultural conversations.

Tayo has, over the past few years, turned his lens to a number of different ways of capturing local experience through photography. From candid snaps of Lagos' street style to intimate portraits of his grandmother, the photographer's artistic practice continues to expand his interests expand. IBEJI is only the most recent example of work that demonstrates Tayo's artistic gaze and its power to celebrate the beauty of ordinary people. Here, Tayo expands on his practice and the series.

On the motivation behind IBEJI
"The idea is to ask questions that explores the psychology of twins. For example, what impact does one have on one's understanding of the self? The mythologizing of twins often means that they are a single unit, defining their identity through their physical similarity and emotional proximity. "

On Orisha deities in Yoruba culture …
"Twins are considered the physical manifestation of an Orisha deity to the Yoruba people. Much of the Orisha's influence has unfortunately diminished because of Western ideals. Yet, despite this, there is a fundamental of the twins in Nigerian culture and twinship continues to be highly valued by the country's Yoruba people. "

On his role as a photographer …
"The message my work relays is the most important thing to me. The story of twins by no means new. All I've done is an ongoing conversation by asking questions I was interested in about identity and psychology.

"I also wanted to explore the relationship with other people, especially when it comes to having influences and upbringings."

On what IBEJI has taught him …
"I think it has helped me understand the complex nuances of identity. People might appear the same, but there is inevitably something that will separate and distinguish them. I found that many twins celebrate their similarities out of a mutual solidarity, raising the question: how do you like to know how to define the ways of people?

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