16.75″ Tall (42.5 cm)
Private Estate Collection – California, USA.
A standing Fante female figure carved out of light wood in quintessential Akan/Ashanti/Fante doll style and painted in light color, posed with mature, maternal elegance. The black, highlighted details of the face with the finely braided hairstyle are suggestive of sculptures from the Coastal regions of Ghana, where iconic fertility figures are common. The pose of the female figure and her protuberant stomach suggest the specific purpose for use in a shrine context as a fertility figure. The Fante are one of the several Akan-speaking peoples whose desire for children is conveyed through rituals that are symbolized by an iconic stylized female figure called an akua’ba. The Fante origin of this rare full-figure akua’ba is undisputable. Akua’ba images reflect the Akan ideal of physical beauty and although most Akan groups share in this aesthetic tradition, there are fundamental aesthetic differences between figures made and used by the coastal Fante from those of their inland Akan cousins. For instance, Asante akua’ba tend to have a disc-shaped head, as opposed to Fante heads which are square or rectangular, or sometimes the horned coiffure was fashionable in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Fante akua’ba are also typically lighter in complexion, a reflection of a prized social aesthetic value of lighter (often bleached) skin.
Akua’ba figures are often female because the Akan are matrilineal. It is women who, as procreators, shoulder the responsibility for perpetuating the lineage.