AsanteREGION OF ORIGIN:
Wood, pigment, metal.SIZE:
13.5" (34.3 cm) TallCONDITION:
Private USA Estate Collection
Among the Akan people, childbearing is an important responsibility of women, who are considered to have not fulfilled their purpose on earth unless they have had children and in as much as the Akan are a matrilineal society girl babies are preferred.
The tradition of how akuaba came to be is based upon the story of a childless woman named Akua who went to her local shrine to consult with the priest of her desire to have a child. The priest advised her to have a small figure carved and to treat it as she would a real child carrying it in a cloth on her back. At first ridiculed, she was in time to deliver a real child, a girl, to the astonishment of her friends who exclaimed to her “Akua, wo ba ni” – “Akua, this is your child”. The child was named Akua or Wednesday born. Since that time barren women among the Akan who wish children will have a figure carved to keep by their side or after the child is born to place the akuaba in a shrine as offering and remembrance. As shrine pieces an akuaba is often painted with white clay to carry messages to the spirits. If kept by women at home akuaba would be dressed with cloth, wear jewelry and have hairstyles carved along the edges of the round head or inscribed on the back of the head. Some akuaba have scars on their faces, not for identification or aesthetics, but so that the spirits will not take them back. Families who have lost a number of children will cut small marks on the cheeks or temples so that the spirits who love beautiful children will be mislead and not return them to the spirit world.