Asante Wooden Polychrome Fertility Doll - PF.3496
Origin: Southern Ghana
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 10.625" (27.0cm) high x 2.375" (6.0cm) wide
Collection: African
Style: Asante
Medium: Wood and Paint
Condition: Fine


There are few matters more important in African societies than fertility. It encompassed nearly every aspect of life crucial to the well being of every individual. A man without a child would suffer a break in his ancestral family worship. Upon his death there would be no one to perform rites to aid his soul in the spirit world. For women, having a child was a way of raising their social status. A young girl's whole life was in preparation for marriage and motherhood. Well before puberty, girls would often wear dolls made of reed or wood as pendants. These were not regarded as toys, but as serious objects aiding in fertility through their magical powers.

Fertility dolls are often very charming and evoke a loving maternal nature, as in this endearing figure of a young girl. In seeking assistance from spirits, an object need not obey laws of time and space, or be restricted to events in sequence. This girl is flushed with sexual desire, symbolized by red paint, yet she is already pregnant. The intention is to encourage one in order to promote the other. Her serene expression is like a proud mother who has already given birth to a healthy baby. Thus, the three stages of procreation are seen - desire, conception and birth, depicted very simply and with great gentleness.

The fame of fertility dolls is based on the legend that a woman who has worn one will give birth to a particularly beautiful daughter. The figures vary somewhat in style according to whether a male or female child is desired. A girl wears it on her back, just as she will carry her child to be! - (PF.3496)



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