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Figure (Mwana Hiti)

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Zaramo Peoples

Figure (Mwana Hiti)

20th century

Object Type: Sculpture
5 1/2 in. x 2 in. x 2 1/2 in. (13.97 cm x 5.08 cm x 6.35 cm)
Medium and Support: Wood
Accession Number: 2013.0017.0035

Credit Line: Gift of Dileep and Martha Mehta

The Zaramo present small wooden dolls or "mwana hiti" like this one to girls when they begin their initiation isolation upon reaching puberty. The girls embellish the sculptures with beads and they make coiffures for them with hair shorn from their own heads. During initiation, they care for the dolls as though they were children—washing, oiling, and feeding them. After their seclusion, the girls marry. If they have difficulty conceiving a child, they treat the doll as they did during initiation. If their first child dies, they undergo another ritual seclusion to reestablish relations with ancestors and insure the fertility and continuity of the clan.

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