Akuaba doll is associated with the story of a woman who was named Akua
This woman could not get pregnant. As a result, she went to the local diviner. She commissioned the carving of a small doll as her child. After completion of the doll, she carried it home and took care of it as if it were her own child. She fed it, clothed it just like a normal kid. After sometime, the people in her village got used to it and they started calling it “Akua” “ba”, meaning Akua’s child. In this case, the suffix “ba” means a child. However, after she had lived with the doll for some time, she fortunately got pregnant and gave birth to a real daughter who grew with the doll. This tradition has still existed until today. Akuaba doll belongs to the Akan, Ashanti tribe in Ghana. It was produced in the period from early to mid 20th century, during the era of colonialism in Africa.
The doll is made of polished wood that is stained black
Its head is of the shape of a flat disc. The forehead of the doll is high with a flat nose. Its mouth is small. The head of the doll is held high because it has a slander neck with arms that take the form of a cross. This is because the arms do not have joints. The base of the doll is square or rectangular what makes it possible to stand due to stability, created by the base. It has a protruding navel. The doll was normally carried at the back of an Ashanti expectant mother. This was done in the hope that the child to be born could be beautiful just like the doll (Cole & Ross, 1981). Therefore, the doll signifies the importance of fertility among the Ashanti women. Just as it was the case with Akuaba, sterile mothers normally hope to have a child one day by keeping Akuaba with them, something that was believed to make them become pregnant. The height of the doll is about 40cm. The round or oval shaped heads of Akuaba’s were considered to be the most suitable as they made it possible for women to carry them at their back without difficulties (McLeod, 1981). They could easily take the model of an infant behind the back of their mother. In addition, the dolls have flat profile. This makes them ideal for carrying at the back. Moreover, they could also be wrapped in the women’s skirt. Their ringed neck makes it suitable for the dolls to be carried as well as it adds to its beauty. A close observation of the doll shows that it has small scars on the face. This is because most of the Akuabas were made for medicinal purposes as a way to protect the yet to be born child against any convulsions (Kyeremateng & Nkansa, 1996). It can also be noted that most of the Akuabas have cylindrical torso, where their breast are protruding and a navel ends at the legs like that of human beings. Therefore, the Akuaba takes the form of the baby except for few parts, such as lack of joints at the arms, no hands and the fact that the navel ends at the legs.
Akuaba are of various styles. This implies that Akuabas are made of different types. Some of the styles that make them distinct include the following: firstly, some have circular base, while others are made of rectangular base. The two bases are meant to ensure that the Akuabas are stable when they are being placed upright. Secondly, some have their navel ends at the junction where they meet the legs while others have navels ending at the base. This means that some have well-crafted feet while others do not. Thirdly, some Akuabas have joints at their legs and hands while others do not have. Moreover, some of their hands are just like those of human beings pointing downwards, while others have straight hands that form a cross (Kyeremateng & Nkansa,1996). The face of the Akuaba is also different as they do not necessarily bear the same forehead. Indeed, some have an object on their forehead just like an animal (Cole & Ross, 1981). They have differences in terms of placement of the eye, the nose and the mouth. Some have beads on their ears while others do not have. It is also easy to note that some Akuaba are black, while others are brown.
This object has been selected mainly because of its significance to the community where it comes from. Akuaba is associated with the fertility. A woman who could not conceive was advised to visit a local shrine together with a senior woman in her family. The two would purchase a figure or a doll of Akuaba which would periodically be placed at the altar. The women would reclaim the child together with certain medicines. She would then go home with the doll and take care of it as if it was an alive baby. Indeed, the baby was put in some of the best clothes and jewels as the women desired him or her to be born baby to take that form of the beautiful Akua. By so doing, the woman believed that she had a better chance of having a healthy and beautiful baby (McLeod, 1981). Once the woman was successful, she conceived and delivered the baby. She would then return the doll to the shrine as a form of offering. In case a misfortunate fell on the new born baby and it died, the woman would keep Akua as a memory. Therefore, this doll was more significant in that particular community in comparison with other dolls. Its meaning is deeply embedded in the social understanding of the society on which their beliefs were based. The doll encompasses the idea of fertility of their land (Kyeremateng & Nkansa, 1996). This puts into consideration that during this era the Ashanti community had a greater influence in Ghana (Cole & Ross, 1981). As a result, they viewed children as an important heritage which everyone must strive to get.
Akuaba and Modern Society
In the modern society, Akuaba still holds a significant role. Akuaba is produced in mass for sale as a souvenir rather than to be used as a ritual or charm. However, it is still used traditionally in some areas just as it was the case with early Ashanti people. Indeed, Akuaba has also gained currency as it is still believed to be a general symbol of good luck, especially among the Ghanaians. It also helped women to learn how to take care of their yet to be born child. Indeed, Akua’s doll bears more significance since it is passed from the mother to the child. This is a sign of continued fertility. In addition, Akua doll evidently shows that Ashnati people had high esteem for health and beauty. They thought that having beautiful children was one of the most desirable things in life. Therefore, it can be concluded that the Ashanti people valued health, beauty and children.
Amid the modern Ashanti people, some young girls are still given Aakuaba’s by their fathers
This act is a sign of good luck that will make them have many children in their future when they grow up. Thus, the community believes that having a large family is a good luck. Indeed, they believe that if a woman can’t get pregnant, she should immediately go to the herbalist who will make an Akuaba for her (Cole & Ross, 1981). Some women will tie the doll at the back, while some have gone to an extent of placing some small Akuaba on their necks. Infertility, miscarriage and death of the infants are some of the worst fears that women have. Among the Ashanti people, when such incidences happened there were the associations with witchcraft (McLeod, 1981). A woman who bears most girls is highly esteemed among the Ashanti people, because she helps in continuum of this lineage.
In conclusion, Akuaba doll bears a great significance among the Ashanti people in Ghana
This is because it is associated with one of the important aspect of life which includes bearing and delivering children and good luck. Indeed, the doll is a sign of fertility among the community members. The continued use of this doll indicates that the meaning of the doll goes beyond what can be interpreted in books. It is deeply embedded in the beliefs and culture of the Ashanti people.