The unusually large size of this comb indicates that it would have been proudly displayed, possibly on the wall, in an Akan household as a prized possession. This comb incorporates three figurative busts which possibly represent, in a hierarchical arrangement, a mother and her children. The figures are differentiated from each other through slight variations in their carved coiffures and facial scarification markings. Images of trees, symbols, geometric shapes and animals – including a bird with forward-facing feet, a chameleon and a crab - beautifully adorn the surface of the comb. Traces of Reckitt's Blue decorate the comb. For the Akan, the chameleon is a symbol of transformation. Meanwhile, the Akan proverb, ‘a crab does not give birth to a bird’, acknowledges the resemblance between the mother and her children, as displayed by the figures depicted within the comb.
Among the Akan of Ghana, elaborate hair combs (duafe) were commissioned and gifted to women by admirers or male members of the family in order to mark special occasions, such as puberty celebrations, weddings or births. The iconography and imagery of Akan duafe combs have layers of meaning, drawing on Akan legends and proverbs, while also illustrating the relationship between the woman and the man who gifted the comb.
Estimated Period: Mid 20th Century