Akua was a young Asante woman who was having trouble conceiving a child. She consulted a local priest who divined that Akua should commission a woodcarving of a small child. Akua was told to treat the carving as if it were a living infant. Akua carried the figure on her back, tucked into her wrapper with just the head appearing above the cloth. She fed, bathed, and slept with the figure and gave it gifts. The villagers pointed and teased Akua “Oh look at Akua’s child.” But eventually Akua became pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful, healthy little girl. Others who struggled with infertility followed the same path and all subsequent carvings came to be called “Aku’aba” in her honor.
The Akua’ba below was inspired by a picture in the book Isn’t s/he a doll? Play and Ritual in African Sculpture. This particular Akua’ba belongs to the Fante peoples in Ghana.
Below is the original image from the book that inspired this sculpt.