This pair of dolls is from the nomadic Turkana people in northwestern Kenya in East Africa. These traditional, hand made wooden dolls are called "ngide," which means child in the Turkana language. A father will carve a doll like these for his daughter and the figure is then dressed using bits of the girl's beads and clothes. These dolls are difficult to date exactly, but they were made for sale, probably in the second half of the twentieth century, and are by no means new. These ngide are not fertility dolls, since they do not show signs of pregnancy but are given to girls so they can "care" for them, in preparation for motherhood. Girls will play and sleep with their doll.
The hair on each ngide is made of long strings of plant fiber, dyed black and arranged in a topknot in front. The smaller of the two dolls wears a collar of wire wound around her neck, along with a leather apron tied over her chest and a leather "skirt" at her waist covering her in back. She is decorated with black, blue, red and orange beads under her collar and in three strands down the front that are finished with cowrie shells. The taller of the two dolls wears a collar of black and red beads, wound in eight rows, with two strands of larger beads in red, white and blue down the front, interspersed and finished with cowrie shells. She also wears a front apron tied on in back with a piece of twine and a "skirt" panel in back attached with a leather thong, but the leather pieces have animal hair covering them. She wears a bracelet of wire wound around her left wrist. The arms of both dolls are carved out but attached to the bodies at the "hands." Both dolls have charming carved faces with tiny glass eyes. The light brown wood they're carved from was coated with a natural, resinous dye that turned them black.
Given that these dolls are made with crude materials, they are in good vintage condition, with no missing beads or shells. The taller of the dolls measures about 12 1/2 inches tall and the smaller one 8 1/2 inches tall. While their legs terminate in simple, flat oval bases, they do not stand on their own independently due to the uneven, hand-carved bottoms. They can be propped against the back of a shelf or other surface or stands can be purchased for them. Either way they are fascinating pieces of hand made, hand carved art from Kenya.