Bamana Chi Wara Headdress Mask

  • Product Code: BM1-31
  • Dimensions: 4" x 48" x 13"
  • Availability: In Stock
  • USD $


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The 2,500,000 Bamana people, also called Bambara, form the largest ethnic group in Mali and occupy the central part of the country, in an area of savannah. They live principally from agriculture. The religious and social life of the Bamana was once determined by six initiation societies. Nearly every Bamana male had to pass through these societies in succession, until, upon reaching the highest rank, he had acquired a comprehensive knowledge of ancestral traditions. Each state of initiation was accompanied by the use of certain mask types, most of them zoomorphic. Among the best known of these is the antelope headdress of the fifth society, Chi Wara. Although there are many varieties of Chi Wara headdresses, they all have a highly abstract body, often incorporating a zig-zag motif, which represents the sun's course from east to west, and a head with two large horns. The masqueraders performed dances to assure the fertility of the fields, and they always appeared in male-female pairs, symbolizing the sun and the earth and their significance to human life. The representation of the roan antelope is meant to invoke the myth of when this animal gave the first grain to human beings and taught them how to till the soil. Chi Wara headdress masks can be classified into three groups, each of which is associated with a certain region. The "vertical" type of this headdress occurs primarily in the eastern Bamana region. The second type, which is strongly abstracted, is found in the southwestern Quassoulou region. The third type, called "horizontal" due to the position of the antelope's horns, is typical in the area around Bamako and northwestern Mali. This last type represents a hybrid between an antelope and an aardvark, which is a quick and skillful tunneler, which is why it is so admired by Bamana farmers. -Bacquart -Hahner-Herzog/Kecskesi/Vajda

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