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The Ruth E. Aten World Doll Collection: Africa

This list, with accompanying photos, contains dolls from various areas of Africa.

Eastern Africa

EAfri1. Zimbabwe, Africa. African Woman. 11” African woman carrying a gourd bowl on her head filled with beans. She is dressed in a traditional yellow African print and current style dress over a stuffed wired body. These colorful dolls are sold in many different styles as popular souvenirs depicting current life in Africa. Given by Linda Williams (student). 1994

African Woman, Zimbabwe

EAfri2. Zimbabwe, Africa. Ancestor Spirit. 11” Carved wooden figure with headpiece and dress made of jute. Face and headpiece are painted black and white. Tag: “Ancestor. Ancestor spirits are worshipped and consulted for important family matters. Zimbabwe”. Given by Daniel Reed (student>faculty). 1990s

Ancestor Spirit, Zimbabwe

EAfri3. Zimbabwe, Africa. Woman Carrying Chicken. 10” Molded clay head, arms and legs with chicken in basket on head. Dress is current style with African green and yellow top and African print skirt. Tag: “Dolls of Zimbabwe, An authentic souvenir and unique gift. Collect them. We certify that each doll is unique and individually hand-modeled and crafted in our Zimbabwe studio. The people of our Country have inspired Trish Syer, the artist/designed to create this valuable doll depicting the activities of rural and urban life in Africa”. Given by Linda Williams (student). 1993

Woman Carrying Chicken, Zimbabwe

EAfri4. Kenya, Africa. Fertility Doll. 4 ½” Small handmade palm seed head doll; body and hair made of twine wearing a green and white checked dress. Card: “FERTILITY DOLLS – Women of the Turkana tribe carry these dolls to help them conceive a perfect child. After the birth the dolls are given to their children as a toy. – Kenya Doum palm seed, beads, shells, fish verterbrae”.

Fertility Doll, Kenya

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Northern Africa

NAfri1. Egypt. Egyptian Couple. 11”Set of 2. Composition heads, stuffed bodies. Female has hat filled with cotton, long fiber hair, black veil, pendant necklace, white flowered print dress with green trim. Male has hat, mustache, silk shawl, pin-striped suit. Given by Hasan El-Shamy (faculty). 1980s

Egyptian Couple, Egypt

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Southern Africa

SAfri1. Ndebele, Africa. Large Beaded African Doll. 6” Black cloth head with white beaded eyes, beaded body, yarn hair with beads, brass neck rings. Given by Ruth Stone (faculty) from a research trip. 1991

Large Beaded African Doll, Ndebele

SAfri2. Ndebele, Africa. Medium Beaded African Doll. 3 ½” Beaded body; string hair with beads, beaded eyes, and brass neck rings. Given by John Johnson (faculty) from a research trip. 1991

Medium Beaded African Doll, Ndebele

SAfri3. Ndebele, Africa. Small Beaded African Doll. 2” Very small doll constructed of beads. Given by Christie Fox (student). 2000

Small Beaded African Doll, Ndebele

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Western Africa

WAfri1. Senegal, Africa. African Mother Carrying Baby. 10 ½” Simple handmade stuffed female doll carrying baby in back pouch. Traditional printed pattern, embroidered face, and human or horse hair. Tag: “Jembetat, Handmade West African Imports” 

African Mother Carrying Baby, Senegal

WAfri2. Ghana, Africa. Dancing Doll. 4” Painted wood and straw fiber, white feathered hat, African print cloth top, grass skirt. Given by Beverly Stoeltje (faculty) from one of her research trips to Ghana. 1999

Dancing Doll, Ghana

WAfri3. Senegal, Africa. African Woman. 11” African woman in traditional dress print and current style, stuffed wired body. A common souvenir doll depicting current African life style. Given by Beverly Stoeltje (faculty). 2002

African Woman, Senegal

WAfri4. Monrovia, Liberia, Africa. Masked Spirit Dancer. 14 ½”Handmade doll, carved wood head and body, white painted face, feathers and yarn trim on head, woven robe with leather neckband, grass or straw skirt. Given by Ruth Stone (faculty). 1989. Ruth mentioned that she had purchased the doll from a man selling them along a road on one her research trips to Africa.

Masked Spirit Dancer, Monrovia, Liberia

WAfri5. Bamako, Mali. Mother and Child Gourd Doll. 11” Mother holding child. Dolls have gourd heads, burnt features with twine hair and handmade clay beads. Bodies are stuffed, hand dyed and stenciled. Given Daniel Reed (faculty). 2003

Mother and Child Gourd Doll, Bamako, Mali

WAfri6. Monrovia, Liberia, Africa. Woman Carrying Basket on Head. 11” Head is an unidentified pod with glued paper eyes and painted features, arms are rolled brown fabric. Doll is dressed is a green top with bright green, yellow and blue stripes skirt and matching head wrap with basket.

Woman Carrying Basket on Head, Monrovia, Liberia

WAfri7. Africa. Blue Print African Woman. 13” Black cloth African woman in current style puffy sleeve dress of blue African print fabric. Painted face, gold necklace and earrings, stuffed wired body. Given by Ruth Aten and purchased at an African booth at the Indiana State Fair. 2001

Blue Print African Woman

WAfri8. Man, Cote d’Ivoire, Africa. Gbage Figure. 8 ½” Wooden form, black painted face, straw and red yarn headdress. Costume is black and white woven cloth top and straw grass skirt. Given by Daniel Reed (student>faculty) 1997. Tag has Daniel’s description: “Ethnicity: Dan (Yocouba).  This doll represents the “Gbage.” Historically this genre of mask led warriors into battle. Today, most Gbages are entertainment masks that dance to celebrate joyous events.”

Gbage Figure, Man, Cote d'Ivoire

WAfri9. Ghana, Africa. Ghanaian Drummer. 9 ½” Doll has clay molded head, stuffed body and wooden legs. Dressed in bright colored African woven cloth wrap and is drumming a stuffed drum. Given by Beverly Stoeltje (faculty) 1993

Ghanaian Drummer, Ghana

WAfri10. Mali, Africa. Fulani Doll. 5" Fulani doll is totally made of folded African print cloth. The doll was given by Cullen (student), Emily, and Abigail Strawn. Cullen took his family to Mali and describes the doll: “—little blue packet is the baby; can put the baby within folds of mother’s gown; the baby can be born—green necklace gives the appearance of the mother’s covered head (the Fula women cover their head)—the fabric can be changed using other scraps of fabric like a woman changes her clothes.” 2005

Fulani Doll, Mali


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