3814 – Ndebele Doll

Physical description:
Traditional beaded doll made by Ndebele women in Southern Africa. The doll has a spherical head of black fabric, a conical body of blue fabric, and string-wrapped arms. She is decorated with small glass beads, mainly red and white.
Museum classification:
Modern Witchcraft
125 x 140 x 65

The Ndebele women of Southern Africa make various different types of these dolls, which symbolise different stages of a woman's life, and are intended to bring her good fortune in her various roles. This is either a fertility doll (given to a bride by her maternal grandmother) or a ceremonial doll (placed outside a young woman's hut by a young man who wants to marry her). It is probably a ceremonial doll, as the fertility dolls tend to have more elaborate headdresses.

Purchased by the donor in a charity shop in Allerton Road, Liverpool.

Allerton is an especially magical part of Liverpool. It is the site of the Calderstones - stones from a passage grave, carved with spirals, a footprint and a bird. It is also the site of the 1000-year-old Allerton oak, whose acorns were used as protection charms. (Information provided by donor.)

This doll has a companion piece - 3815, an ithyphallic small brass figure, perhaps a male fertility amulet.

A Ndebele fertility doll features in this year's (2017) temporary exhibition, 'Poppets, Pins and Power: The Craft of Cursing', on loan from Louise Fenton, curator of the exhibition. Louise uses it to illustrate the fact that poppets can be used for benevolent purposes, as well as for cursing.

Fabric, glass, metal etc.