Bamana Antelope Chi Wara Headcrest Mali
The Bamana (also called Bambara) are among the largest ethnic groups in their region. Because traditional life revolves around agriculture, issues concerning the cycles of nature and the productivity of farmers inform Bamana society and art. Knowledge of agriculture practices is transmitted from generation to generation through the Ci-wara (or Chiwara, Tyi Wara) society. The purpose of the Chi-wara society is to pay homage to successful farmers. Their rituals recall the legend of the mythic animal that could be (according to different regions) a roan antelope (Hippotragus Leucophaeus) or anteater, a pangolin (Manis temmincki) and a python or a mythic half man, half-animal creature called Ci-wara, who introduced agriculture to men. The Bamana people honor successful farmers through performances involving the appearances of the antelope masks like this carved wood crest mask. Ci-wara crest masks are worn at agricultural contests, entertainment and at the annual celebration. The masquerade ceremonies occur during planting and harvesting seasons in the fields and the village palace. The dance is performed by two men acting as a male / female pair.