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A Celebration of Black History: African Art from the Neufeld and Plass Collections

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Image of Akua'ba (Fertility Doll)

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unknown Asante
Asante Primary

Akua'ba (Fertility Doll)

Late19th century - Mid 20th century
Carved and incised wood

10 1/2 in. x 4 1/2 in. (26.67 cm x 11.43 cm)
Bequest of Margaret Feurer Plass, Class of 1917

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 99.6.18
Other Number(s): P32 (Plass Number)
Geography: Africa, Ghana
Classification: Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Culture/Nationality: Asante, Akan, Ghanaian, West African, African
Collection: Plass Collection
According to Asante legend, the first Akua'ba doll was created for a barren woman, Akua, who wished to have a child. A priest instructed her to commission the carving of a small wooden child, to carry the surrogate child on her back, and to treat it as if it were real. Thus, Akua'ba (which means little Akua) dolls came to be used by women to aid in fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth.

Akua'ba dolls embody the aesthetic features and feminine ideals important to the Asante. The large disk-shaped head, small facial features, and smooth patina are symbols of intelligence and beauty, while the ringed-neck is associated with fertility and eroticism.

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Additional Image 99.6.18_BMC_f_2.jpg
Additional Image 99.6.18_BMC_f.jpg
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Additional Image 99.6.18_BMC_r.jpg

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