Bamana, Mali / Headcrest Mask (Chi Wara) / 20th centuryBamana, Mali
Headcrest Mask (Chi Wara)
20th century

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Creator Nationality: African
Creator Name-CRT: Bamana, Mali
Title: Headcrest Mask (Chi Wara)
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1900
Creation End Date: 1972
Creation Date: 20th century
Creation Place: Mali, Africa
Object Type: Costume and Jewelry
Classification Term: Headgear
Materials and Techniques: Wood, cloth, metal
Dimensions: Height: 47"; width: 15 3/8"
Description: Wooden headcrest representing a vertical-style male roan antelope standing on a thick rectangular block with three center holes for attachment to a basketry cap; square legs angle outward from corners of the block and join long, thin body with small pointed tail; large penis on underside of body; stylized neck and mane rise in hemispherical curve from top of body joining back of the thin, elongated head; openwork mane comprised of four separated flat bands with zigzag bars in open areas creating triangular patterns; eleven fin-shape mane projections extend from outer border; upright ears with lower center through frame back of head; long horns with spiral grooves extend upward from sides of head; head tapers to point with slit jaw; red cloth in center eye area of head with metal borders of serrate edged bands; top of head, ears and mane bonds with burned rows of triangles; nostrils and ears pierced for missing thread tassels; surface blackened by smith's smoke, soot and rubbing; mounted on black wood base.
AMICA Contributor: Brooklyn Children's Museum
Owner Location: Brooklyn, New York, USA
ID Number: 72.114.8
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David G. Gerofsky, 1972
Context: Traditionally, Chi Wara headcrests represented the mythical antelope-man who taught the Bamana to farm. Male and female masks dance in pairs wearing enveloping fiber capes during hoeing contests at planting and harvest. Dancers remain bent, probing the ground with short sticks in imitation of the antelope. Masquerades recreate and commemorate the antelope's teachings. Male antelopes have manes; females have babies on their backs.

The vertical crest type is from eastern Bamana area; the horizontal, two-piece crest from western Bamana. Chi Wara forms are interpreted in various ways: triangular scarifications may refer to hair patterns, horns to millet stalks, the pointed snout to that of a burrowing aardvark or pangolin. A coiled tail may indicate a chameleon and immortality. Many of the symbols represent sexuality and fertility. Chi Waras are now worn for secular hoeing contests to honor the best farmer and for entertainment. Chi Waras were originally worn by members of the fifth Bamana Secret Society Association.

AMICA ID: BCM_.72.114.8
AMICA Library Year: 2003
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