Female Fertility Figure Sculpture from The Met Museum


This small resin reproduction depicts an akua ba figure, one of the most recognizable forms in African art. Consecrated by priests, such figures are carried by women who hope to conceive a child. The flat, disk-like head is an exaggerated convention of the Akan ideal of beauty, while the sculpture’s flattened shape allows it to be carried against a woman’s back, wrapped in her skirt. The rings on the figure’s neck signify beauty, health, and prosperity in Akan culture. After influencing pregnancy, akua ba are often returned to shrines as offerings to the spirits who responded to the appeals for a child. A collection of figures becomes an advertisement for the spirits’ ability to help women conceive. Families also keep akua ba as memorials to a child or children; the figures become family heirlooms that evoke a loved one.

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