Jamaica Gleaner / Today we focus on Corn Cob Dolls, which are made from dry corn cobs and scraps of clothing. In the Post Emancipation period, Corn Cob Dolls were popular among young girls, just as Gigs were to boys.
These dolls were made by attaching a smaller piece of corn cob that was shaped to look like a head on to a larger piece of dried corn cob that would serve as the body. A small space would be carved out on the face to look like eyes and a mouth, or the features would be drawn on to the face of the dolls.
These dolls would then be adorned in the clothing style of the period that they were made in. Corn cob dolls as with dolls in many other cultures would be used to teach young girls about childcare, while serving as a means of entertainment for the children. Even though these dolls are very simple some may even describe them as rudimentary.
These dolls point towards a larger picture where corn more specifically Guinea Corn (sorghum) has been widely cultivated in Jamaica and once played a significant role in the diet and domestic lives of persons living in rural areas. Guinea Corn is an old world plant, a staple in many parts of Africa and to be distinguished from Indian maize, of continental American origin. Referred to as corn, sorghum can be grated to a meal and made into economical Turn’ Corn(meal), developed from an African dish called Fufu. Corn is also used to make Corn Pone, Cornmeal Dumplings, Dokunoo and Hominy.
Children loved a sweet of African origin made of parched ground corn, mixed with sugar. It could be eaten dry, in which case it was called Asham, or as a paste known as Brown George. Dried corn husks were used as mattress stuffing, as was copra from the dried coconut husk.