The Akuaba doll is a special doll cherished very much among the Ghanaian communities especially the Asantes. The Akuaba doll earned the name from an Asante’s woman called Akua who was barren and desperately needed a child. Due to her barrenness, she was branded as a witch by her neighbours accusing her of ‘eating’ (killing) all the children in her womb. Out of desperation, she consulted a local diviner for a child. The diviner after his consultations with the ancestors through some rituals asked Akua to commission a carver to carve a doll in the likeness of the child she dreams of having. She described vividly all the features she admires and desires to see in her would-be-child which reflected the Asante concept of beauty. Some rituals were performed on the doll and given to Akua. The story continues that Akua cared, carried and treated the wooden doll as if it were human. Soon, she became pregnant and bore a daughter exactly as the doll. Henceforth, all barren women were asked to go for a similar ‘Akua’ (The name of the barren woman) ‘ba’ (Child) doll. This explains why the doll was has being called Akuaba doll till date.
The doll is however returned to the shrine as an offering after the safe delivery of the child. If the child passes on to the land of the dead, the doll will be kept by the mother as a memorial of the child.
It is also worth knowing that the features of the doll have symbolic meanings. For instance, the culminated or exaggerated head of the doll symbolizes the seat of wisdom. The flat forehead is an Asante ideal of beauty. The entire body is in ovals and circles which are symbols of beauty in the Ghanaian community. The neck which should be in ringed in an odd manner is a symbol of beauty and prosperity. The textured marks or ‘scars’ that appear on the face especially the foreheads is for medicinal and spiritual protection against convulsions and evil forces.
The Akuaba doll is carved from a hard wood called ‘Sese’. The carved doll is then blackened with a mixture of soot from the base of cooking pots and the albumen of raw eggs.
As already pointed out, the doll was primarily used as a fertility doll to charge barren women with fertility powers. The doll also has others functions. For example, the doll is used as a charm in searching for missing children. In times past, it was believed that dwarfs stole children. Therefore to get them back, a doll that is an exact replica of the missing child is carved and placed at the forest entrance. The dwarfs would mistakenly pick the doll and release the child in their possession.
Among some ethnic societies like the Anlos of Southern Volta region, a wooden doll is carved and placed in the coffin of a dead twin to prevent his soul from coming for his or her live twin. The Akuaba doll is also used for decoration of the interiors of rooms and offices.