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African Art
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Twin Figures (Akua’ba)

early 20th century

Wood, glass beads, string, and pigment

14 × 4 3/4 × 1 3/4 in. (35.56 × 12.07 × 4.45 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
An Asante woman who cannot conceive a child may be advised by a priest to commission a sculptor to carve a small wooden doll such as this one; the doll is known as Akua’ba, or “Akua’s child.” The woman cares for the doll as if it were her child, which is meant to help her become pregnant. Families also keep Akua’ba as memorials to a deceased child or children. The figures may become family heirlooms, appreciated not only for their spiritual efficacy but also as beautiful images that call to mind a loved one. The flat, rounded heads of the dolls refer to Asante ideals of beauty, and the backs of the heads are decorated with a pattern of incised lines.
On view
20th century

Lipkin Gallery, Inc. (Morton Lipkin), Phoenix, to Dec. 13, 1982; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn 1982–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 102, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.