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Fali Beaded Fertility Doll Ham Pilu

Fali Beaded Fertility Doll Ham Pilu

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Fali people, mid. or late 20th century, Cameroon

Lovely beaded doll made by the Fali, a group of people concentrated in mountainous areas of northern Cameroon in central Africa. The Fali primarily engage in farming and hunting. Fali women are known for their fine pottery and hand woven cotton fabrics. 

Special fertility dolls (ham pilu) are used in connection with magical practise for the adorning a young women with fertility. Crafted by a engaged man to give his wife-to-be. The husband renders the doll a gender that he desires for the first born. She will then nurse the doll and wear it in a baby carrier on her back until their own child is born. At this point, the doll will be carefully stored away. This doll serves as a symbol of the couple’s commitment to marriage and their future first born child. The doll is often constructed from wood or iron, wrapped or bound with animal hide strips or heavy fibre twining and embellished with strings of colorful glass beads and other small objects.

Fertility doll made from iron, wood, yellow glass beads, animal hide and textile strips. Hair made from fibre. This doll also wears a "cache sexe" or a pubic apron. Good condition. Age-related wear and signs of handling over the years. Beautiful patina. Size approx. 20,0cm x 10,4cm x 6,8cm.

Provenance: Dutch private collection.

References and further reading:

Isn't S/He a Doll: Play and Ritual in African Sculpture, Elisabeth Lynn Cameron & Doran H. Ross, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1996.

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