Namji Doll

edc-0715-5_f_  edc-0715-5_v_  edc-0715-5_b_  edc-0715-5_34p_

EDC 0715-5

Namji (Doyayo, Dowayo, Namchi, Namshi) Fertility Doll, Cameroon

Wood, leather, glass pearls and cowry

H: 42,5 cm (16,7”)/ 48,5 cm (19,1”), W: 20 cm (7,9”), D: 3,5 cm (1,4”)

This is an exceptionally fine and well-kept fetish doll from a family collection since the 1950s. The well-proportioned and classic wooden structure with the delicate little head is covered with very fine details of leather and adorned with glass beads in bright, bold colors. This makes the figure an exceptionally beautiful fertility doll, which must have been a gift to the daughter of a wealthy family.

The Namji people live in the west of the north Cameroon. They created a wide variety of important tribal dolls used by young girls and older women. The dolls are held by young Namji women to ensure their fertility. In general these dolls can have duel objectivity. In special cases where an older woman is having trouble conceiving or bearing a child, perceived objects of play can become serious items of worship that are believed to possess magical, spiritual qualities. These items are known as fetishes such as the present one. They are crafted specially for the individual in need by one selected carver. The doll is then endowed with supernatural powers by the Nganga (tribal spiritualist) in hopes to grant the wish of the patron. The object is subject to food offerings and prayer on a regular basis by the owner to maintain the objects’ level of power.

Age: Est. beg,-mid 20th Century

Provenance: From the Dessau’s collection of tribal art founded in the 1950s.

Literature: Galerie Amrad, African Arts. Esther A. Dagan (Hrsg.), African Dolls for Play and Magic, 1990, S. 91, Abb. 25.

A Namji woman carrying a doll on her back (from Weidholz 1943 pl. 57)

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