Mossi Biiga Fertility Doll

A traditional leather-bound wooden Mossi Biiga fertility doll, nice wear patina.

Tribe: Mossi

Origin: Burkina Faso

Approx Age: Mid – Later 20th Century

Materials: Wood, Leather

Dimensions cm: 33 tall

Ref. Number: 0195



The Mossi Biiga fertility doll figure is washed and dressed and carried on the back just like a real child would be. If it is damaged, the biiga is taken to the local diviner for attention. The biiga is passed on from mother to daughter or from sister to sister. All Mossi dolls have a cylindrical base that is slightly wider than the body. It is carved without legs or arms but has accentuated breasts which are a symbol of motherhood. The head is a stylization of the gyonfo, a female hairdo; The Mossi Biiga fertility doll also features scarification patterns that are realistic and found on the Mossi people themselves. For a similar example see Roy, Christopher & Thomas G. B. Wheelock, Burkina Faso Land of the Flying Masks. The Thomas G. B. Wheelock Collection, 2007,figs. 478-48


This girl is from a village in the Mossi country of Burkina Faso (a landlocked country in West Africa). The doll she is holding is a traditional wooden figurine made from one piece of wood standing on a broader base. The doll displays the characteristics of an adult woman, with suggestions of facial features and elaborate hairstyles, and usually with mature female breasts that represent the fulfilment of motherhood. Scarification [scarring] patterns on the body that traditionally mark the passage to adulthood are also represented by carved patterns. Mossi dolls are typically carved by male blacksmiths and are given to girls for play. The child calls it biiga (“child”), and carries the doll about with her, tucking it into the waistband of her skirt, and pretends to feed, wash and groom it. Sometimes it is adorned with beads, cowrie shells, dressed with pieces of leather or cloth, and the girl might bring it wildflowers. In the market, a girl may place her doll on the edge of a merchant’s mat and expect to receive a small sample of the wares—a few peanuts, a pastry, or a piece of fruit.

Serving as educational toys, they are dressed, washed, carried on the back, or placed on the mat, etc., all being activities for the education of the child as ‘mother’ of the doll, carried on under the watching eyes of the mother, aunt, or grandmother. The young ‘girl-mother’ considers the doll a child (biiga) and has to play close attention to it. Hense, any damage to the doll, although accidental, calls for consultation with the diviner, who knows invisible things hidden from ordinary people. For this reason, the Mossi dolls are handled with great care.


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