Fertility rites

Saturday 29 November 2008 by Florence

Dolls and statuettes that are made in the african tradition in relation to fertility have an important and multiple role for young girls and women. Always associated with the idea of maternity they are surrounded with a lot of care.

They are playing and learning objects with which teenagers learn the maternity gesture by reproducing with games and mines the gestures of the adults : baby’s care, feeding, cleaning, carrying and dressing.

They are ritual objects with amulets worn by pregnant women which protect them from the beginning of their pregnancy until the child is weaned of the mother’s milk and give them healthy children. The dolls and statuettes with stylised figures of the Namji who live in the north of Cameroon are often decorated by beads and have different amulets (lajie).

They are sacred objects worn on the back or on the belt which allow new married women and supposedly sterile ones to hope the coming of a first child. The Ashanti dolls from Ghana are called akuaba (‘‘child of Akua’’) according to a legend saying that a woman, after having worn a statuette like that, has given birth to a very beautiful girl. They are sacred by priests and treated as real children. When they are not useful anymore because they have done what they were made for, they are put on domestic altars. The Mossi of Burkina Faso have also dolls with stylized figures given to new excised girls to increase their fertility.

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