The Nyaturu calabash dolls have a long history, ignored by the whole of the scholarly and commercial world - or nearly so. The Hamburg Museum has had one since 1912, sometimes referred to as muana (= child = doll) and sometimes as Kinderklapper (child's rattle). 17 cm long, it is composed of an orange calabash, whose upper opening is sealed by a discoid layer of resinous material (resin? Wax?) In which are inserted pearl threads arranged in a concentric manner and strips. of leather trimmed with pearls or pieces of ostrich eggshell (Sigrid Paul, Afrikanische Puppen, Berlin 1970, p. 25 and fig. 12, using Otto Reche, Zur Ethnographie des abflusslosen Gebiets Deutsch-Ost-Afrikas, Hamburg 1914, p. 66, fig. 58).
Since 1912, therefore, we have not heard of Nyaturu dolls, before an ethnologist, Miss Marguerite Jellicoe, bequeathed to the British Museum (1994-1995) a similar doll, of larger size (37 cm), collected during his stay in Singida, in the heart of Turu country, around 1962. Same shape, same orange color, same shutter system, same pearl threads. In terms of novelties, a beaded belt, cowries at the end of the threads, a few longer threads (evoking a sort of train?) With cowries and a coin at the end, white, red and blue beaded segments. A peculiarity that this doll is the only one to possess: two red-white-blue beaded bands ending in fingers (5!), Which, seeming to represent arms, further anthropomorphize the figure.
Nyaturu dolls of the type you are asking me about appeared on the art market in 2005, in Belgium and England. some obtained from runners in Tanzania itself (this was the case with my doll, now at the Museum Rietberg in Zurich), others imported by dealers from Tanzania (Demba Sow, for example) and sold to Belgian merchants (Dartevelle , Quackelbeen, van Rijn). They form a homogeneous group. Certain details seem to attest to its authenticity, such as the use of brass pearls, pieces of copal, the wear of the cowries, the presence of a shell disc (designed?) And a coin of the British East Africa to reinforce the obturation, the patina deposited on the calabashes which have lost the orange hue that they have new ... comments b françois Mottas author and curator of the lausanne exhubution "les jeux fertiles" provenance