akuaba (Figure)

About this object

History of use

The name Akuaba comes from a legend about a woman named Akua who was barren but wanted to become pregnant. She was advised to commission the carving of a small child and carry it with her at all times, treating it as though it were real. The woman was mocked by her neighbours, but she eventually became pregnant and gave birth to a girl. Soon other women who wished to become pregnant followed suit. All Akuaba are female, partly because Akua’s child was female and also because the Fanti are matrilineal.

Iconographic meaning

The long rectangular heads are specific to figures made by the Fanti people. Akuaba figures are characterized by high foreheads and small facial features set low on the face, all signs of great beauty. The carved rings around their necks represent rolls of fat- a sign of health, beauty and prosperity.

Physical description

A pair of thin akuaba figures side-by-side on a rectangular base that has a geometric triangular design on it. Both figures have extremely long, vertically rectangular heads with eyes, a thin nose line that extends to the brows above, and a small rectangular mouth. Multiple horizontal rings are carved around the long necks. The downward and outward flaring bodies have short arms or breasts at the front with a navel. The lower portion of the bodies are decorated with two pairs of multi-coloured beaded bands.