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The name Akua'ba comes from an ancient legend:
a woman called Akua, sterile, had as a strong desire that she could have children.

Akua consulted a priest who told her to commission the sculpture of a small child in wood and to bring the surrogate child on her back, as if it were real.

So she took care of the little puppet, as if it wes a living child, even creating gifts made of beads and other pendants, for this she was mocked and made fun of by the other villagers, who began to call the wooden figure Akua'ba, or "Akua's daughter" to laugh at her.

Eventually, however, Akua conceived and gave birth to a beautiful baby, shortly thereafter, even her detractors began to adopt the same practice to overcome the problems of sterility.


All the authentic Akua'ba -as in this case- are female images, mainly because Akua's first daughter was a female, but also because the Akan society is matrilineal, so women prefer girls, who will perpetuate the lineage of the family.

After having influenced the pregnancy, the Akua'ba are often reported to the sanctuaries as offerings to the spirits that have responded to the appeals for the wanted pregnancy.

These figures become family heirlooms and are appreciated locally not only for their spiritual associations, but also because they are beautiful images that bring to mind a loved one.


The figures of Akua'ba with disc-shaped head remain one of the most recognizable forms in African art.

The Akua'ba "dolls" are used in a wide variety of contexts in Ghana, mainly consecrated by priests and brought by women, who hope to conceive a child.

These sculptures are particularly appreciated and listed on the vast horizon that offers ethnic and African sculpture.


The flat head, similar to a disk, is a strongly exaggerated convention of Akan's beauty ideal: a high, oval forehead, slightly flattened along the lines of real practice, which is performed by gently shaping the soft cranial bones of the newborn.

The flattened shape of the sculpture also serves a practical purpose, since women wear these figures against their shoulders wrapped in skirts, evoking the way children are transported.

The rings on the neck of the figure are a standard convention for rolls of fat, a sign of beauty, health and prosperity in the Akan culture.

Ashanti doll, Akua'ba

  • Details

    Dating: XX

     Provenance: Ghana

     Dimensions: H: 41 cm L: 16 cm W: 6 cm

     Weight: 317 gr

    Material / technique: wooden sculpture with patina

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