Child with Purple Plastic Doll near Kumasi, Ghana
The girl in the photograph is from the Asante peoples in Ghana. She is holding a purple plastic baby doll of a type that is frequently found in markets in Ghana. The doll is both imported from Taiwan and made domestically in Ghana. The modern plastic doll is based on an older, traditional form of wooden figurine manufactured by village blacksmiths to represent the adult, female figure. Girls play with these dolls they call biiga ("child"), by caring for them, dressing and feeding them, and sometimes tucking them into the waistbands of their skirts just as women carry infants in cloth wrappers wrapped around their torsos. There are significant rituals associated with girls, including the belief that proper care for the doll can ensure fertility and survival of children. Girls also carry the dolls for display when they go among adults, and might expect a token present when, for example, they place their doll on the ground in front of a merchant in the market. Wealthier families and those in the towns have come to consider the plastic dolls to be more prestigious than the traditional wooden ones. Unlike the Mossi dolls, however, the plastic versions are shaped like a girl rather than a woman, and have generally Caucasian features and western dress.
"Child with Purple Plastic Doll near Kumasi, Ghana," Color Photograph by Eliot Elisofon, 1971, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Image number EEPA EECL 1015; Monochrome photograph from Roy, Christopher D. "Mossi Dolls." African Arts 14, no. 4 (August 1981): 47-88. Annotated by Susan Douglass.