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‘Land of Ibeji’ is a collaborative photographic project  by artists Sanne De Wilde and Bénédicte Kurzen that looks at the mythology of twinhood in Nigeria, “Ibeji” meaning ‘double birth’ and ‘the inseparable two’ in Yoruba stands for the ultimate harmony between two people.  The rate of twin births in West Africa is about four times higher than in the rest of the world.

The centre of this twin zone is Igbo-Ora, a sleepy southwest town in Nigeria. Using a visual narrative and an aesthetic language that is meant to reflect and empower the Yoruba culture that celebrates twins, the two photographers extend their gaze beyond appearance – with symmetry and resemblance as tools, to rasie awareness to the twin as a mythological figure and a powerful metaphor: representing the duality within a human being and the duality we experience in the world that surrounds us.

Communities have developed cultural practices in response to this high twin birth rate that vary from veneration to demonisation. In some areas, shrines are built to worship the spirit of the twin and celebrations are held in their honour. In others, twins are vilified and persecuted for their perceived role in bringing bad luck, in particular to rural communities. In Yoruba beliefs each human has a spiritual counterpart, an unborn spirit double. In the case of twins, the spiritual double has been born on earth. The friction, between communities celebrating twins and rejecting them, lies in the perception of the twin as an extremely powerful spirit. Some see it as threat, something that cannot remain on earth, and has to be sent back to the heavens where it normally resides.
To highlight the ‘magical’ and ‘supernatural’, to visualise that what cannot be seen; 2 colour filters were used in certain pictures, amplifying the duality of two photographers, two individuals, two identities; two perceptions coloured differently. Colours symbolising contradictory beliefs: purple for the spiritual and heavenly and red for the earthly danger. Layers of portraiture, double exposure, landscape and still life come together as visual narrative, translating the mythology of twin hood. The photographers are using various genres with duality as a key theme: the metaphor and the literal, the visible and the invisible, the material and the spiritual.
Sanne De Wilde (Belgium, 1987) uses photography to explore the role genetics play in peoples lives and how this
shapes and affects communities. She graduated with a Master in the Fine Arts at KASK in Ghent (BE) with honours in 2012. Her photo series ‘The Dwarf Empire’ was rewarded with the Photo Academy Award 2012 as well as the International Photography Award Emergentes DST in 2013. Her series ‘Snow White’ was awarded 16ème Prix National Photographie Ouverte and NuWork Award for Photographic Excellence. She is also the recipient of the Nikon Press Award in 2014 and 2016 for most promising young photographer.
Bénédicte Kurzen (France) photographic career began when she moved to Israel in 2003, covering hard news as a freelancer in the Gaza Strip, Iraq and Lebanon. In 2004, her photography developed towards a more documentary style while covering the lives of volunteer suicide bombers and widows in the Gaza Strip. Bénédicte contributed with this work to the “Violence Against Women” group project, in collaboration with Amnesty International and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Bénédicte holds a master’s degree in Contemporary History from the Sorbonne.  In 2011, she received a grant from the Pulitzer Center, which allowed her to produce a body of work on Nigeria, “A Nation Lost to Gods”. Her work has been screened and exhibited at Visa pour l’Image and was nominated for the Visa d’Or in 2012.  She became an adjunct lecturer at the American University of Nigeria in journalism in 2015 and now lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria.