One of the most commonly recognized forms of African art are the akuaba (akua'ba) from the Ashanti tribe in Ghana. They are ritual figures, always female, that are carried by women who hope to conceive a child. The large, flat disk shaped head is typical, as are the abstract horizontal arms and simple indications of breasts. Like most akuaba, the small mouth is carved very low on the face.
This akuaba is a contemporary sculpture, carved by African sculptor Ataa Adjiri. The decorations on the head are much more elaborate than usual. The slitted eyes are outlined with tiny red, black and white beads. The nasolabial folds are outlined in white beads and the cheeks have lines of green and black beads, representing scarification. Triangles of brass are inlaid along the edges of the head; what sets this sculpture apart is the hammered brass semi-circle that depicts a raised figure of a bird on the wing. The golden color of the brass is a reference to the abundance of gold found on the Gold Coast.
The details on this figure are beautifully carved, down to the tiny feet wearing sandals. The back of the sculpture is flat and has carved details, also. Atypically, the akuaba is seated on an Ashanti stool; akuaba are carried flat on the backs of women, like their real children are, but this is a piece of art, meant to be displayed not carried. The dark brown wood used in this carving has been sanded silky smooth and is a delight to touch. Measuring 10 1/4 inches tall and 3 3/4 inches across the outstretched arms, it sits on a U-shaped base 2 1/4 by 2 3/4 inches. The sculpture weighs about 8 ounces and is in outstanding condition, with NO missing beads or other damage. It's hand signed on the bottom in gold: AKUABA FERTILITY DOLL ataa adjiri 93" It's a handsome 20th century piece of African art.