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Figure, Religious, E57.29

Physical Description

Carved wooden figure painted black. Of stylised human form with large disc shaped flat head, tapering at chin, features simple and concentrated in lower half. [back of head patterned.] Neck carved, body cylindrical with conical arms small breasts, raised belly button - ending in cylindrical base. Decorated with thread (?) & coloured plastic & brass beads earring & necklace. Scarification under eyes. [brass ring at neck.]
Paint wearing off.

Research Notes

Akan (Asante)

Ghana, West Africa.

Wood, brass (earring) glass (beads), cord (cotton?), cord (human hair?).

Used by women to assure fertility. Often worn/carried tucked in to cloth wrapped around woman's waist as one would carry an infant. Fertility doll of wood likely darkened with polish, e.g. shoe polish. Triangular, spatula shaped head. Nose and eyebrows formed by a continuous upright 'T' shape. Small horizontal slitted eyes with '+' scar on each cheek. Front of head smooth & slightly convex. Back of head flat with unusual pattern of horizontal & vertical lines - possibly to represent hair? Left ear/hole has earring of twisted black fibre (hair?) with brass wire/bead attachment. Right ear/hole is absent any adornment. Top centre of head has small hole absent any adornment. Small protrusions carved immediately below tip of nose is suggestive of a mouth. Cylindrical neck has incised rings running the circumference - believed to be suggestive of rings of fat indicating abundance/wealth. Below the neck the body becomes a larger cylinder with two cone like features extending - one from either side - as arms. The body/cylinder continues down with slight belly protrusion and ends in a base of a slightly larger cylinder shape. The neck is surrounded by two thin strands of very small irregularly shaped glass translucent yellow beads interspersed with groups of irregularly shaped glass blue and white beads. One of the strands also has three glass seed pendant beads, one clear white, one dark green, and one light green. A third strand of twisted light coloured thread (cotton/hemp?) runs the circumference of the neck and from which hangs as a pendant 7 differently shaped glass beads, one dark black, one translucent yellow, reddish carnelian, whit, gold covered, a slightly yellowish one, and then a seed shaped one of reddish brown (perhaps stone?) with the others all glass. A fourth strand of twisted thread (dark) encircles the neck, runs around each arm and crosses the back - on which at intervals are six very small shiny white glass beads. A small hole penetrates vertically each the end of the right and left arm. The right arms has through it a fine twisted fibre (grass?) thread on which is strung tiny black glass beads, 4 white beads & one red bead. The left arm has a similar bracelet of black and translucent yellow glass beads and 4 blue & white beads. The general appearance is of a nicely carved, somewhat used - note wear on back and back of head - in good condition.

Height from top of head to bottom of base = approx. 247mm. Length of head (chin to top of head) = approx. 95mm. Width of head (side to side) = approx. 101mm.

Aku aba —Joel A Vanderburg
Africa Collection File:
Wooden fertility doll


Collected by: G Ulrich
Collected in 1920s by Mr F.A.C. Ulrich while working in Asante Goldfields


Maximum dimensions (H x W x D): 246 x 102 x 40mm

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