In the context of Ndebele female culture these ‘dolls’ were not children’s playthings but rather objects that were laden with ritual and religious significance within the community. They were often handed down from mother to daughter but also made by young women to give to their suitors.
Often referred to as ‘fertility dolls,’ there is no evidence to show that they were created for the purpose of promoting fertility. Indeed, there is not even a word for ‘doll’ in the Ndebele language. Rather this beaded sculpture was referred to simply as a ‘child of wood’ umntwana wesigonga.