Fertility Doll (Akuaba)

Brooklyn Museum

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Akua ba dolls exist in many West African cultures. However, figures with the most distinguishable characteristics originate from Fante and Asante cultures. Both are of the Akan people who migrated to Ghana beginning in the 11th century. Facing British and Dutch influence along the Gold Coast in the 19th century, Fante and Asante people continued to wage war against one another to maintain their separate states.“Asante Wars.” Encyclopedia.com, https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/asante-wars.Despite the contentious history between the two communities, akua ba dolls are a unifying feature of their matrilineal cultures. Typically wooden female dolls with enlarged heads, small facial features, fat rolls and marked sexual attributes are characteristic of both cultures, however their styles diverge strongly in the head types and finishes. Fante dolls such as this one usually have rectangular heads and are typically left unpainted, although this figure seems to have been dyed black. Fante artists also pay careful attention to hair as evidenced by this figure’s horned hairstyle.

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