Asante Akuaba Fertility Figure

Akuaba Doll, Asante, from Ghana.

Amongst the Asante these elegantly carved abstract figures are called Akua’ba, or Akua’s Child.

Their origin dates to a particular story that tells of a young woman named Akua , who was having difficulty conceiving of a child (ba). She consulted a medicine man who advised her to make a wooden child and carry it on her back, dressing, bathing and adorning it with beads as if it were a real baby. Faithfully following the priest's advice, a healthy girl child was soon born. Other women emulated Akua, and all such fertility figures are now called ‘Akua’ba’ in her memory (Isn’t S/He A Doll?, Cameron 1996). These magically-endowed dolls invoke the earth mother goddess Asase Yaa and are commonly carried by Asante, Fante and Bono women of Ghana to bring about increased fertility and successful pregnancy.

Dating from the mid 20th Century, this vintage fertility idol was originally coated with a black pigment to protect the wood. She wears carved neck rings as well as beaded decoration, sports a typical healthy moon face, and carries a smaller and more traditional akuaba figure carved on her forehead. She is remarkably detailed on the back, wearing a carved backpack tied around her waist. The statue is well preserved and has a beautiful patina.

Because this figure is carved in the semblance of a pregnant woman rather than a child (note the presence of a pregnant belly, pronounced breasts and what is most likely a child carrier on her back), she is most likely a fertility or maternity figure. The akuaba carved on her forehead represents the actual child.

Measurements: Height 50 cm (19.75")