Akua ba doll, Fanti, Ghana.

It is one of the more familiar stories in African cultural history. In what is now central Ghana, at some time in the distant past, a young Asante woman named Akua (Wednesday born) was having trouble conceiving a child (ba). To solve the problem she consulted a local priest, who divined that Akua should commission a woodcarving of a little child. The priest instructed her to treat the carving as if it were a living infant. She was to carry it as all young children are carried, on her back, tucked into her wrapper with just the head appearing above the cloth. She was told to feed the figure, bathe it, sleep with it, and give it gifts; such as waist beads and beaded earrings and necklaces.

Both the Ashanti and the Fanti have these figures; the Ashanti Akua ba heads are disk shaped and the Fanti Akua ba head forms are rectangular. The Fanti are an Akan group that live on the Atlantic coast of Ghana. Their Akua'ba are used the same way in order to get pregnant and give birth to a healthy and beautiful child. Because the Akan are matrilineal (they trace family descent through the female line, not the male), it is imperative for a woman to have at least one daughter. This is why these dolls are always female images.

Light brown wood, mat, spotty patina, abstract form, circular leg zone, supporting an armless cylindrical torso, a columnar neck and a flat rectangular head on top with a narrow face, small mouth and nose beneath incised coffee-bean eyes, exceptional wide cheeks, the back of the head carved with incised geometrical ornaments, strings of miniature glass beads around the hips and the neck, on wooden base. Traces of wear and use. 

Provenance: Belgian collection. H: 25,5 cm - 10 inch.

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