Fertility doll Akua ba, Ashanti, 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.

These Akua'ba are used 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.

This Ashanti Akua ba has a typical abstract form, circular leg zone, supporting an armless cylindrical torso, a columnar neck and a flat disk shaped head on top with a narrow face, small mouth and nose beneath incised small coffee-bean eyes, the back of the head carved with incised geometrical ornaments. A strings of glass beads around hips.

Wood, black paint, paint rubbed off, glossy patina, traces of wear and use. On base.

H: 22 cm - 8.7 inch.

Provenance: Purchased at the Verzamelaarsjaarbeurs Utrecht 2009, Netherlands.