Kwere Figure, Mwana Hiti Doll, Kwere, Tanzania
H: 20 cm (7,9″), W: 6 cm (2,4″)
This fine old mwana hiti figure is from the Paramo people of Tanzania is unusually well carved in a dark brown, shiny surfaced patina. The ‘doll’ itself is special. Not only has she a cute expression but also the fact that her angular legs are showing makes her more special.
The quality of this fertility figure indicates the wealth and importance of the parents to the girl that was given the doll as a present after her initiation. As a tradition, the girl will treat the doll with motherly care. She will wash it, carry it, put it to bed, dress, and even “feed” it hoping to conceive her own child when she is sexually mature and marriageable and hope that her future child would be born healthy.
The father of the young initiate mwali gives order for carving a mwana hiti figure, afterwards it is given to the clan leader who places it near ancestor figures in order to make their power passing over into the doll. After a further special treatment the girl receives the doll.
The term Mwana Hiti loosely means “child made of wood,” and refers to iconic figures that depict a highly stylized female torso. The figures are commonly referred to as “dolls” but they are anything but dolls as they play significant roles in the spiritual lives of a wide range of ethnic groups in Tanzania. They are almost exclusively used by female initiates during seclusion and coming out ceremonies. Smaller ones are often worn as amulets by women wishing to enhance their fertility. The figures are also found on thrones, stools and staffs of the region and often times represent ancestors and are depicted in pairs. (Quote of Felix, March in: Mwana Hiti : Life and Art of the Matrilineal Bantu of Tanzania / Leben und Kunst der Matrilinearen Bantu von Tansania.ia”.
Condition: Beautiful smooth dark brown surface. Despite age and constant use, there are no cracks or other damage to see.
Age: Mid 20th Century
Provenience: Bought from a Belgian art dealer. Ex German private collector.
Literature: Tanzania by Marc L. Felix & Maria Kecskesi, ill. 200 a/b, 201 a/b, 202 a/b.Request price for Kwere Figure