Ewe Venavi or Venovi Figure
- Tribe: Ewe
- Origin: Togo
- Approx Age: Mid 20th Century
- Materials: Wood, Glass Beads
- Dimensions cm: 20 Tall
- Ref. Number: 0956
An interesting Ewe Venavi or Venovi Figure or doll. This female doll has a very smooth patina and has been so cherished that it has caused the distortion of her facial features. The trials of life have also taken their toll on this little figure leading to a few cracks that are clearly visible to the side of her head, down her back and one side of her body. Even her toes have been lost over the years but she stands strong on a black plinth. Decorated with a necklace of blue and white glass beads interlaced with wooden beads, possibly added at a later date, this is a nice figure of an Ewe doll.
Provenance: Ex UK Collection.
These figures embody the traditional double appearance of twins. The Ewe people call them Venavi, and they are revered. The modern appearance is explained by the fact that dead twins are seen as living people, because they have accepted modern ways. The figures wear shoes, trousers and other objects. The statues are a remembrance of the dead twins. No one ever says a twin has died. They say he or she is in the bush fetching fire wood. This means that he is not far and will come back soon. Twins are considered to be immortal. From birth on they are considered to be gods or spirits, and must always get special care.
If twins are to be of any benefit, they must be housed and looked after particularly well. They must be given the best food, drink and clothes. One tries to spoil them in every possible way, in order for them to display their abilities for the benefit of the family, rather than making them feel so neglected that they might do harm.
Among some groups, such as the Yoruba in Nigeria, the Ewe in Togo, and the Fon in Benin, a real twin cult has sprung up. Twins are regarded as the chosen ones of the spirit powers. Their amazing closeness, which is believed to survive even death, is stressed. The Yoruba beieve that twins have a joint soul. If one dies, the other twin is also threatened with death.Their soul has lost its equilibrium and sways between this world and the next. The dead twin determinedly tries to pull the survivor over to him as soon as possble. That has to be opposed. Not only do the parents put more effort then ever into the surviving child , they also try to keep the dead one in their midst.
The Ewe people of Ghana celebrate the birth of twins as a good omen. Twins known as Venavi or Venovi, lead a life of parallel experiences as they are fed, bathed, and similarly dressed.However if one of the twins dies a Venavi or Venovi figure is purchased to represent the deceased twin and is equally maintained as though alive, being washed and fed.Like the well-known Ibeji of the Yoruba that represent the same idea of portraying the deceased twin in a sculptural form, Ewe dolls are shown as adults and represent deceased twins.They are delightful miniature carvings and have a place in any collection for their carving and presence and for what they represent.
The Ewe people, who live in southern Togo and Ghana are the eastern neighbors of Asante, make small wooden statues and textiles with figurative motifs and symbols. These Aklama statues, roughly carved out of wood represent the protective spirits and are kept by the Ewe in their local shrines. Mainly the Ewe are known by their dolls. Some scholars believe that they were used only as fertility dolls, other consider them toys. The women keep these dolls under their mattresses to ensure fertility. Dolls with broken arms or legs were considered by the Ewe as more powerful. They ensured that children would be born healthy, with their arms and legs intact. The Ewe also produce clay figures of phallic form, called legba, used as tribal or family fetish representing the spirit of fecundity and generative power. Like the Yoruba people in Nigeria, they carve ibeji twins figurines, for protection of survival after death of a twin. They also produce animal figures in black clay, copper figures in lost-wax technique, representing animals and small masks.