By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Ghana; Akan-Asante peoples

Female figure with child

Wood, beads, pigment

H. 45.1 cm (17 ¾”)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.380

An African woman's roles are as life bearer, nurturer and source of generations.  For African women in a traditional rural community, the chief measure of success in life is her ability to bear many children for her husband and for her husband's family.  The very existence of the family and clan depends on women's ability to bear children who will provide security for their parents in old age, and who will continue to nourish the spirits of the ancestors through sacrificial offerings. As a result, much African art is directed toward encouraging the fertility of women. Many shrines are devoted to spirits that provide the blessings of fertility, and these frequently contain sculpture and other objects devoted to the concept of fertility.