This Akan comb is crowned by a carved abstracted female figure. With its disc-shaped head, curving eyebrows converging on the bridge of a thin nose, and long neck adorned with eight rings, the female figure echoes Akan akua’ba fertility figures. Given as a gift from a husband to his wife, duafe combs would underscore the couple’s desire to have children. This visual allusion to the akua’ba creates a relationship between the akua’ba as an ideal of feminine beauty, and the function of the comb in the creation of the coiffure. A word incised into the handle of the comb – ANKYIFIEAKO – is possibly the name of the female owner or the man who presented it.
Among the Akan of Ghana, elaborate combs such as this were gifted from men to women to commemorate special events, such as puberty celebrations, weddings, or births. The iconography of an Akan comb reveals the reason for its commission, and illustrates the relationship between the man and woman. Imagery on duafe combs have layers of meanings, relating to Akan legends and proverbs.
The Metropolitan Museum