Most dolls, in Africa and throughout the world, are used by children--primarily girls--to help them imagine their future roles as adult women, mothers and the primary caregivers in their communities. Though used in play, the forms of many dolls encode important social and aesthetic concepts about appropriate demeanor and the links between physical and moral beauty. Not surprisingly, dolls in different African societies emphasize--in form and decoration--aspects of ideal feminine beauty to include elaborate coiffures, body ornamentation and physical features that underscore the importance of fertility. This Ibibio doll from Nigeria, with her distinctive lobed coiffure, whitened form, painted jewelry and body decoration, captures the essential elements of the youth and beauty of a girl who has completed her initiation rites and is just prior to marriage.
Standing female figure covered with white pigment and with accents of red and black pigment or paint. Red-painted lines and dots around the neck and hips suggest beaded jewelry. Delicate black painted designs ornament the front of the torso and legs. The figure has a bi-lobed coiffure that is black in the back with red lines on the front peaks. The face has closed eyes, a broad flat nose and small incised lips. The tapered neck merges with the torso, broadest at the hips and with a navel. The legs are slightly apart, feet minimally conceived, as are the arms with the exception of wide flat outward-turned palms.
J. Okechuku Nzelibe, Capitol Heights, Maryland, -- to 1975