Africa

Biga doll
Mossi

Burkina Faso

Fertility doll

Carved wood
Early 20th century
Height: 11 ¾ in. (30 cm)

Ex collection Thomas G. B. Wheelock (1941-2016), New York
Ex private collection, New York

Price: on request

Western Africa
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This fertility doll is a "Biga" figure from the Mossi people of Burkina Faso. As stated by the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, wood dolls in the form of stylized female figures are carved by Mossi blacksmiths. Parents give them to their daughters, who use them as playthings and to learn child care skills. Later the figures may play a role in initiation and childbirth. If a woman is having trouble conceiving she may commission a new, larger version of her childhood doll.

Regarding the provenance, Thomas GB Wheelock was a celebrated author and collector of African art specialized in Burkina Faso.
He was notably the Deputy Director of The Center for African Art in New York from 1984-1989 and author of reference books including "Art From Upper Volta", Colorado State University, 1975, "Land of the Flying Masks: Art and Culture in Burkina Faso" with Christopher Roy in 1987.