Through a visual narrative and an aesthetic language that is meant to reflect and empower the Yoruba culture that celebrates twins, Bénédicte Kurzen and Sanne De Wilde extend their gaze beyond appearance - with symmetry and resemblance as tools - to open the eyes to the twin as a mythological figure and a powerful metaphor: for 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 perception of the twin as an extremely powerful spirit. Some see it as threat and as something that cannot remain on earth and has to be sent back to the heavens where it normally resides.
On receiving their award, Bénédicte Kurzen and Sanne De Wilde shared:
"The project is an invitation to look beyond identity as appearance and beyond the exoticism of the identical by calling upon a universal mythological figure: The Twin. It is an invitation for the viewer to travel back into the past and through that rediscover the present and move into the future.
We hope the ‘Ibeji’ project will inspire other creators. We would love for Nigerian artists to contribute from their perspective and expand on the project. We are very grateful for the participation and patience of the people we photographed and the time they spent with us."
Sanne De Wilde continues: "It's so special to share this together, for us this project really symbolises doing something that you often feel that you are doing alone, but we are all doing together. We want to convey a universal experience through storytelling. We also want to thank the NOOR Family and Nikon Europe in believing and supporting this challenging project and allowing us to develop this project fully."
"We would like to have a special thought tonight for a man who was very close to us, his name is Stanley Greene, and we think he would be super proud. We're very happy that a story that is conveying depth and diversity, that is shaping Nigeria, which is a beautiful country that we owe so much to - it has been my home for a very long time - is being recognised for its beauty and values. Finally, I have a special thought for all my brothers and sister from Nigeria, photographers that don't have the same opportunities and we will keep talking about them and pushing them in the world," concludes Bénédicte Kurzen.
This project was graciously supported
by the Nikon Europe Ambassador program.