Fertility Doll (Akuaba)

Brooklyn Museum

About the work

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Akua ba dolls are frequently carved by males and represent early pubescent girls instead of the infants the figures symbolize. This naturalistic doll from the 20th century has individualized facial features, budding breasts, and fat rolls at the neck and knees. Carved in this image, artisans capture the child at their most fertile or prime state. The purpose in doing so is to ensure growth and maturation for the intended youth. The rounded heads of Asante akua ba symbolize an abundance of knowledge and reflect a desirable head shape in Asante culture, achieved by binding the soft skulls on infants.Klemm, Dr. Peri. “Akua'ba Female Figure (Akan Peoples).” Smarthistory, 10 Dec. 2016, https://smarthistory.org/akuaba-female-figure-akan-peoples/. Naturalistic renditions such as this one have become a recognizable commodity of West African cultures in the global market. Akua ba carvers continue to be predominantly male, producing export goods in master carvers’ shops.

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