Bamana Female Figure Miniature 14.5 Inch Mali
This is a classic Bamana Figure from the Bougouni region of Mali.
The extraordinary range of figural sculpture among the Bamana of Mali gives rise to a wide range of styles sharing certain identifying characteristics. The sculpture is an important visual component of the Jo initiation society for young girls and boys. Located primarily among southern Bamana, Jo takes place over a span of years in which the initiates undergo training and instructions which includes the use of sculpture called masiriw - the visual ornaments of Jo. As part of annual celebrations that take place when the first rains of the year occur figures such as this would be taken from their shrine house to the center of the village where they would be ritually cleansed and decorated with beads. These events were directed to assure the fertility of women and crops and to acknowledge the ancestors.
The Bamana people of Mali, West Africa, have a rich cultural heritage that combines both Islamic and traditional religious beliefs. Their political structure is patrilineal, meaning that positions of power and leadership are inherited and passed down through the male lineage. The political leaders within the Bamana community also hold control over the religious aspects of the group.
In Bamana culture, the transition to adulthood is achieved through a series of initiation societies known as the jow. There are six major societies within the jow, which serve as religious and educational systems. Males must go through all six societies in order to be recognized as adults and to be eligible for marriage. In contrast, females go through only one initiation society.
Each of the initiation societies within the Bamana culture has its own distinct masks.
The ntomo society is a five-year period of training and education for boys as they transition into manhood. During this time, they are taught important values such as discipline, endurance, and the ability to keep secrets.
One significant aspect of the ntomo society is the practice of ritual flagellation, where boys are subjected to whip lashings in complete silence. This experience is reflected in the design of the ntomo masks, which often have small shut mouths or no mouth at all. The masks also serve as a reminder of the importance of silence and keeping secrets. Additionally, the mask dancers of the ntomo society carry whips as a symbolic representation of the ritual flagellation.
Overall, the ntomo society plays a vital role in the cultural and social development of Bamana boys, teaching them essential values and preparing them for their roles as men within the community. The masks associated with the ntomo society are not only artistic expressions but also hold deep cultural and symbolic significance within the Bamana culture.