Fante fertility dolls, seated 18" tall male and female figures from Ghana; please refer to photographs for condition.
Living along the Gulf of Guinea and in adjacent inland areas (southern Ghana), the Fanti, an Akan group have distinctive arts belonging to their military companies, Asafo. Fanti military organizations have absorbed and adopted European ideas, motifs, objects, and technologies into their own artistic culture. Each state and most large communities have several Asafo companies. Each company owns certain exclusive colors, motifs, musical instruments, and other insignia, with any violation of such prerogatives by another company being considered an act of aggression. Art, then, may and does cause disputes, which in the old days erupted into virtual warfare. Painted figures and “master” drums, invariably female, are known. The Fanti are one of the peoples generally thought to not possess a masquerading tradition. The Fanti use acua’ba dolls, which differ from those of the Ashanti, their northern neighbors. As this is a matrilineal society, the acua’ba are female. They are used as fertility figurines in shrines or worn by women either to induce conception or, during pregnancy, to assure the birth of a beautiful child, preferably, a daughter. The acua’ba is fed, carried and bathed as if it were a living baby. If the woman has a successful delivery, the figure is returned to the shrine as a form of offering. If the child dies, the acua’ba is kept as a memorial. Usually the Fanti dolls do not have any arms and legs. They mostly appear with rectangular or elongated heads.