Mwana hiti trunk figure, Tanzania
7" tall
wood, pigment
mid 20th century
ex Dr. Evan Maurer
(former Director Minneapolis Institute of Arts)


Mwana hiti, a term that means some variant of "child made of
wood", refers to iconic figures that depict a highly stylized
female torso with a crested head. The figures are commonly
referred to as "dolls" but they are anything but dolls as they
play significant roles in the spiritual lives of a wide range of
people in Tanzania. They are almost exclusively used by
female initiates during seclusion and coming out ceremonies.
Smaller ones are often worn as amulets by women wishing to
enhance their fertility. The figures are also found on thrones,
stools and staffs of the region and often times represent
ancestors and are depicted in pairs. - References from "Mwana
Hiti" by Marc Felix.
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