What is this? African Folk art wood figure?

Discussion in 'Tribal Art' started by 916Bulldogs123, Feb 24, 2021.

  1. 916Bulldogs123

    916Bulldogs123 Well-Known Member

    This guy is about 7 1/2" tall. His arms are attached with nails.
    Colorful beads and he even has a little beaded bag.

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    judy likes this.
  2. Bakersgma

    Bakersgma Well-Known Member

    That's got to be the least African looking face I've ever seen on a carving that someone apparently wanted to be African.
    judy and iPacific like this.
  3. 916Bulldogs123

    916Bulldogs123 Well-Known Member

  4. 2manybooks

    2manybooks Well-Known Member

    He is an interesting little guy. The figure itself looks like some I have seen from East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania). But there are other features that point to an origin in South Africa, and possibly the Ndebele people. The knobkerrie club is a traditional weapon there, and the beaded bag is a simplified version of Ndebele beadwork. But most Ndebele dolls depict women, and are made primarily of cloth and beads. So maybe he is a marriage of convenience.
    judy and iPacific like this.
  5. 916Bulldogs123

    916Bulldogs123 Well-Known Member

    He has another weapon or tool in his bag.
    I thought he was interesting myself. Thank you so very much @2manybooks. Maybe he is worth more than the $3.00 .
    judy and 2manybooks like this.
  6. iPacific

    iPacific Member

    If that knobkerrie club was a golf club in his hand I would think it was Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer :). Sorry for my unhelpful observations. jack-nicklaus-arnold-palmer.jpg
  7. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    It appears to be Turkana, from northwest Kenya. Probably more recent, since older ones tend to have leather loin cloths, although this may have originally had one, under the beading. But the tiny white eyes, beads, and tacked-on arm are definite signs of Turkana figures.
    judy likes this.
  8. 2manybooks

    2manybooks Well-Known Member

    I agree the doll itself looks Turkana. The hairstyle is more like a Turkana woman, rather than a man's style. But the beadwork does not look Turkana, but more characteristic of South Africa. That is why I thought he/she might be some sort of marriage.

    A Turkana woman, with the hairstyle of shaved sides and hair on top:

    After looking at more examples I am leaning more toward Zulu style beadwork (rather than Ndebele).

    Here is a traditional Zulu necklace:

    Here are some Zulu bags:

    Potteryplease likes this.
  9. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    Neither the Ndebele or the Zulu make wooden dolls with the tiny white eyes, and arms like this. True, this doesn't show the typical Turkana necklace, but the larger beads, usually associated with Zulu or Ndebele beadwork, are commonly used on Turkana beaded fertility fetishes.

    I would think that it's more likely a quickly-produced Turkana tourist item with a style of necklace that uses fewer beads, and is quicker to make, and which is probably not going to make any difference to the potential buyer.
    Potteryplease and 916Bulldogs123 like this.
  10. 916Bulldogs123

    916Bulldogs123 Well-Known Member

    So is this supposed to be a fertility doll? Man? Woman?
  11. 2manybooks

    2manybooks Well-Known Member

    "Fertility doll" is often just a sales pitch. It was most likely made as a souvenir for sale. The intended gender seems somewhat ambiguous - some female features in the hair and costume, but obviously some lacking. If it was originally dressed with a bust high skin skirt, breasts might not be indicated in the carving. But the knobkerrie would usually be a man's weapon. The beadwork skirt and necklace that the doll currently wears are not typical traditional dress for either a Turkana man or woman. Usually souvenir dolls are made to reflect traditional attire.

    Turkana men:

    Turkana women:
    Turkana women.jpg

    @Taupou, If you look back at my posts, you will see that we largely agree on the origin of the doll itself -
    It is the beadwork that I find puzzling. If it is a Turkana doll that was made for sale, I don't see any reason it could not have traveled to South Africa and been redecorated there. If you know of examples of a Turkana doll dressed like this one, or of Turkana beaded cloth bags, I would be happy to see them.
    Potteryplease likes this.
  12. 916Bulldogs123

    916Bulldogs123 Well-Known Member

    The men have the ankle bracelets and the women dont. In the examples shown.
    I'm just rambling now.
  13. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    No, the item in question is not a "fertility doll." The Turkana make both as popular souvenir items. They are entirely different items.

    The pieces they sell as "fertility dolls" don't look like dolls, they consist of three rounded "knobs" (shall we say) that are beaded.

    The point was, that the beads used on those items are often larger beads than the ones commonly found on older Turkana dolls, and more like the beads used by the Zulu and Ndebele.
  14. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    I agree, the doll is Turkana. That was the question the OP asked in the first place, and which I answered, when some began questioning if it was even African.

    And I also would point out, not all souvenir items accurately reflect "traditional" dress, which tends to change over time. More often they reflect what will most appeal to the average tourist making the purchase, and what is easiest, quickest, and least expensive to produce.
  15. 916Bulldogs123

    916Bulldogs123 Well-Known Member

    Thank you @Taupou and everybody for all the awesome information on this little guy.
    I appreciate all of you very much.
    Taupou and 2manybooks like this.
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