Chi Wara, male (crest mask)

About This Item

The deity Chi Wara brought farming and agriculture to people. This Chi Wara represents one of a male-female pair worn in ceremonial dances to ensure successful harvests. Bamana artists are known for their chi-wara headdresses, which represent the antelope spirit who taught humans to farm. They combine images of antelope with other animals significant to the Bamana people, including aardvarks and pangolins. These two species are known for their ability to dig in the soil, a trait important for farming. African artists often link the human and spiritual worlds. Masks can embody powerful deities, which are often called upon to guide the living. They can also represent deceased loved ones or community members. Wearing masks allows spirities to return to the living and participate in festivities and celebrations.

Bamana people, Mali, Africa
carved and blackened wood
Research in the Global Museum’s archives show that most of the Africa collection comes from West Africa, yet the variety of objects here originated from almost every region in the continent, characterizing the itinerant movements people have between their neighboring communities. Materials and designs reflect their particular source communities and show evidence of cultural exchange and trade routes. On a deeper level, ceremony intermingles with daily life. There is balance between the living and the dead, where deceased loved ones or powerful spirits are embodied with human and/or animal characteristics to protect, soothe, or guide the living.
14 in
30 in
6 in
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