African dolls

African dolls have two basic purposes. They are toys, but most of all charms that should ensure fertility. Mother often gives her old doll to her daughter. Dolls of the western world are popular too. They are dressed in traditional clothes of the local community.

Ghanaian women holding dolls
Ghanaian women holding dolls

The Ndebele or Matabele people live in parts of Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. They make Linga Koba dolls. Ndebele people are known for their colourful houses and clothes. Their with beads decorated dolls wear similar clothes. When a man is in love he puts this doll outside the house belonging to the woman he loves. That way he expresses his intention to marry her. The woman who is getting married names a doll. Her first child is named after the doll. Linga Koba dolls are nowadays often sold to tourists.

African dolls
African dolls

The Tsonga people of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa make a doll called “nwana” (“girl”). These dolls are made by girls who reached puberty. They are used in the puberty ritual known as “khomba” or “musubethu”. A woman keeps her doll until the birth of her child. It is quite common that these dolls are actually beaded bottles.

African twin dolls
African twin dolls

Members of the Turkana people live in the north of Kenya and Uganda. Their fertility dolls are made of different materials like for example nuts, beads, plant fibres and leather. Some nuts used for this purpose have shape similar to those of male sexual organ. They are put on the female doll. The penis is put on doll's neck and the testicles on her body and legs.

Dolls are made by women, but the the beads used in its making are give to the girl by her boyfriend's best friend. Doll can be given to a married woman too. In this case her husband's best friend gives the beads. The doll then becomes their “child”. When the woman gives birth she gives her doll to her younger sister.

Ashanti fertility doll
Ashanti fertility doll

The Ashanti or Asante people live in the Ashanti region located in the central part of Ghana. Their fertility dolls are made of wood. They are given to the expecting mother.

The Bantwane people who live in small areas located in the northeast of South Africa have the fertility doll called “gimwane” or “popenyane”. Local girls that have not passed the initiation yet pretend the these dolls are the descendants of their boyfriends. They participate in the special dancing competition. The winner becomes the leader of the pre-initiation group. The shape of front and rear aprons on the doll determines doll's sex. Male dolls have rectangular front loincloth. Females dolls have V-shaped aprons.

The Zulu people live mainly in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. Smaller Zulu communities also exist in in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. Their fertility dolls are made by girls at the time of their engagement. They are worn as part of some sort of a necklace. When visiting the family of her fiancé, she traditionally puts doll's hair over its face. This is regarded as a sign of respect. After wedding a piece of red wool is put on the doll's head. This means that the woman is married. The doll is kept at a special place in woman's home. Later she is given to daughter or granddaughter.