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Turkana (Kenya)

Beaded doll (ngidie)

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Object Details

Culture

Turkana (Kenya)

Medium

Beads and mixed media

Dimensions

3 x 3 inches (7.6 x 7.6 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of William W. Brill

Object
Number

81.024.009

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis beaded “doll” is given to a married woman to encourage fertility.WHERE WAS(…)

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis beaded “doll” is given to a married woman to encourage fertility.WHERE WAS IT MADE?The Turkana are a nomadic group in Kenya, the second largest group after the Maasai. HOW WAS IT MADE?This type of ngidie is made from palm nuts and strings of beads. They are generally made by the recipient’s mother.HOW WAS IT USED?Although referred to as a doll by Western scholars, among the Turkana peoples a ngidie functions in two ways, neither of which is as a plaything. Together, parents may make a ngidie for a maturing daughter; the father carves the wood, and the mother “clothes” it with beads, shells, and other materials. If the girl treats this figure as she would a real baby, it ensures that she will have babies of her own. Mothers also give their married daughters a type of ngidie, like this one. Women dress and “feed” the ngidie as though they were actual children. During the day, they may wear the ngidie around their necks.WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?Although this type of ngidie, used by married women, might be treated as one would treat a child, it is not intended to resemble the human form. Composed primarily of palm nuts, they reference male genitalia. In this way they are different from ngidie made for girls, which are carved from wood and do resemble the human form. Ngidie made for adult women are adorned with beads that are provided by the best friend of the woman’s husband.

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