Doll, used in stillbirth ceremony, Gambia, West Africa, 1930-1950

Copy of doll, made of baked mud with bead eyes and human hair, in blue woven dress, used in stillbirth ceremony, from Gambia, West African, 1930-1950

This doll is made of baked mud with textiles and human hair. It is a replica of one made in a Gambian Village for women who had had stillbirths. The doll is treated as a live child. It is baptised on the eighth day, when a feast is held. In many West African medical traditions, stillbirth is attributed to evil forces or spirits. It requires a range of healing practices, some dating back thousands of years.

The doll was donated by Sister Mary M Larrett to the Wellcome collections. She was employed at the West African Council for Medical Research Laboratories at Bathurst, Gambia, and later at Lagos in Nigeria.


Ethnography and Folk Medicine
Sir Henry Wellcome's Museum Collection
Object Number:
complete, earthenware (baked mud), textile, hair and glass
overall: 197 mm x 63 mm x 80 mm, .913kg
human remains and doll
Wellcome Trust