Monday, January 18, 2010

Welcome to the (African) Dollhouse


In "the olden days," in Sub-Saharan Africa, there was a larger variety of dolls than nowadays, of which I'll describe a few. They used to be made of natural materials, such as wood, earth, or even weeds.
Ashanti doll
The Ashanti doll, from Ghana, is one of the most famous worldwide: a wood circle-face on a stick-like body (photo shown to the left)

Moundang doll
The Mandara mountains Moundang doll, from Northern Cameroon, made of volcanic rock, and decorated with tiny beads. This is the one which arguably least resembles the traditional European-style doll (photo right). 

Fali dolls from northern Cameroon

 * male doll made of a corncob, decorated with cowry shells, European beads, leather strips, with a cotton skirt; 
 * "boy" doll made of wood, with cowry shells, bells, leather strips (illustrations shown below); 

The Fali-Namchi dolls have been revisited in recent years, as shown below



Senegalese doll
Ngongui doll
The easiest style to make, in coastal Cameroon: a plant called Ngongui is pulled out of the ground; the roots are cleaned and trimmed, to represent human hair; the leaves are trimmed so as to be able to "stand up" on the ground, representing the human body (shown on the left). 

From my own doll collection are a few more photos: a Senegalese rag doll, a doll with a straw head covering, and a plastic doll wearing Martinique's madras clothes (African diaspora), and an African "Raggedy Ann" style. 


Doll from Martinique

Vickie Fremont makes African puppets showing the different regions of Cameroon.
An African puppet made by Vickie Fremont