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Unknown Maker
Female Figure (Akua Ba)
20th century

For the Asante peoples, a daughter is a desired child due to their matrilineal structure. Akua ma (the plural form of the singular akua ba) derive their impact from the oral tradition that relates the story of Akua, a woman who desperately wanted a child. On the advice of a priest, she commissioned a sculptor to create a figure such as this, and treated it as if it were a real child. As she eventually became pregnant and gave birth, her story inspired barren Asante women to practice the same ritual. In some cases, when a woman becomes a mother, she gives the figure to her daughter to use as a doll.

The flatness of the figure makes it convenient for carrying in the woman¿s wrapper, as she would a real child. Typical of akua ma is the large disc-shaped head, prominent for showing such Asante ideals of beauty as a high forehead and ringed neck. Representing rolls of fat, the rings signify beauty, health and prosperity. A previous owner has adorned this akua ba with beads at the neck and the base of the cylinder-shaped body. Unlike the naturalistic body of another akua ba in the Lang collection (M84-266), this figure displays the more usual abstracted form, with two tapered bars to represent arms.

 
Unknown Maker
Asante peoples
Female Figure (Akua Ba)
20th century
wood
height / width / depth: 36.50 x 15.00 x 5.00 cm; 14.37 x 5.91 x 1.97 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-284

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