Kurzen is a French documentary photographer who has been based in Nigeria for the past seven years. In his most recent project capturing the lives of ‘Twin Births,’ she explains that she had for a long time wanted to investigate Nigeria’s twins’ phenomenon.
Although she had always wanted to do this, she had little ideas on how to go about until De Wilde, a Belgian now based in the Netherlands, joined her photo agency.
Together they both identified three locations in Nigeria where twin births are more pronounced: Igbo-Ora, where twins are celebrated; Gwagwalada, whose orphanage stands as terrible testimony to continuing infanticide; and Calabar, a southern city where a 19th-century Scottish Presbyterian missionary
Mary Slessor is honoured for persuading local people to cherish, rather than kill, their twins.
In Europe, we have replaced our ancient mythologies. Nobody really knows what Castor and Pollux or the Gemini sign mean any more. We come to Nigeria to revive that mythology.” As the project progressed, they found themselves being mistaken for twins and working like them: “There was no question of ego at all. One of us would have an idea and the other would complete it. One would have the camera and the other would hold the light.Kurzen
She pointed out that some of their portraits resemble the work of Kehinde Wiley, the American portraitist of Barack Obama’, Kurzen laughs and says they met him briefly in Lagos. Wiley is himself a twin.
Land Of Ibeji
The Yoruba Town Igbo-Ora Claims To Be The Twins Capital Of The World.
This Yoruba community in Oyo State celebrate these children as they togged out in their holiday best. As over 2,000 sets of twins poured into the Nigerian town of Igbo-Ora last autumn for the state of Oyo’s first twins festival–an event celebrating the town’s claim to be the twins capital of the world.
Bénédicte Kurzen and Sanne De Wilde were travelling the length and breadth of Nigeria to investigate the mythology that has grown up around a strange genetic anomaly: for it is not only Igbo-Ora that is blessed with unusual numbers of multiple births. “West Africa and specifically Yorubaland (the south west of Nigeria) has 10 times more twins than any other region in the world,” they say.
They also took Several photographs in an orphanage near the capital, Abuja, which has become a sanctuary for children in danger of being killed because of deeply held superstitions in their communities. Not for nothing did Chinua Achebe write, in his great 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, of twins being stuffed into earthenware pots and cast away into the forest because “the Earth has decreed that they were an offence on the land and must be destroyed”.
Through their pictures, they say, they hope:
“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”. In this way, “the mythology of twinhood becomes a way to address themes like identity, genetics, demographics, economy, religion and environmental issues”.Land Of Ibeji 2019
Land of Ibeji by Bénédicte Kurzen and Sanne De Wilde is at TJ Boulting Gallery, London W1 until 29 June. A book of the series will be published in September by Trolley Books.