Lot: 46

Rare fertility doll "okana kositi" ("child from wood"), before 1914

Namibia / Angola, Ambo (Ovambo) - Kwanyama

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Jürgen Peters, Nürnberg, Germany H: 12.2 inch 5000 EUR / 10000 EUR

wood, ostrich eggshell, glass beads, mother of pearl, These child figures were carved in the form of a cylinder with enlarged rounded ends, reminding of the "endunga" fruit from a female palm tree "Hyphaene ventricosa" - a powerful methaphor for female fertiltiy amongst the Ovambo people. Even the bead strings with which the body is wrapped, have symbolic meaning. Beads from ostrich egg shells stand for the graduates of the "efundula" initiation stage, the dark blue glass beads "omushambe" are a symbol of motherhood. According to early field reports, this combination of beads was worn by a bride until she became pregnant. Strands of ostrich eggschell beads and buttons made of ivory or Conus snails were used by the Ovambo as an indicator of wealth. This too was transferred to the dolls. Young women considered it particularly propitious when they received such a figure from their father. But it must also have been quite common that the dolls were passed on from the mother to the eldest daughter. Two comparable Ambo dolls - collected between 1900 and 1908 by a German military doctor in this area - were auctioned at Christie's Paris on June 20 in 2006 (lot 219, 220).


Dell, Elizabeth, Evocations of the Child, Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, 1998, p. 207 ff.