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Past Exhibitions

Mwana Hiti:
More Than Just a Doll

(From the Guibert Hairson Collection)

December 17th. 2008. – April 30th. 2009.

Exhibition and catalogue by

Emilia Epštajn, MAA curator

Exhibition catalogue

Exhibition objects



About the exhibition

The Mwana hiti: More than Just a Doll catalogue and exhibition are the result of study based on the Belgian private collection of Guibert Hairson.

Initiation trunk figures, staffs of high-ranking members of the community, a fly whisk, container for medicinal and magical substances, a memorial post and throne-stool, spoons for the ceremonial preparation and food consumption, as well as more than forty hairpins, combs and hair decorations are brought together by one image – the mwana hiti.

The mwana hiti appeared as a freestanding figure or image incorporated in objects used in ceremonies and on other important occasions that marked the lives of the Zaramo and neighbouring peoples. Depending on the context, the mwana hiti carried sacred, status, magical, or religious properties founded on the authority of the ancestors.

The sculptural form and real life function of the mwana hiti motif reveals that it unites all male and female aspects, on a physical and spiritual level and that the varying meanings contained in the mwana hiti image are in accordance with its many functions.