Bamana Antelope Headdress

Wood, metal
Long 62 cm.

Bamana Antelope Headdress, female, with long snout, curled spiralling horns joined at the tips, elongated pierced ears, nails attached head to body, the last incised with zigzags and dots, flexed legs and curved tail, rectangular base, dark aged patina.


A Chiwara (also Chi wara, Ci Wara, or Tyi Wara; Bambara: ciwara; French: tchiwara) is a ritual object representing an antelope, used by the Bambara ethnic group in Mali. The Chiwara initiation society uses Chiwara masks, as well as dances and rituals associated primarily with agriculture, to teach young Bamana men social values as well as agricultural techniques.

Stylistic variations

Chiwara masks are categorized in three ways: horizontal, vertical, or abstract. In addition, Chiwara can be either male or female. Female Chiwara masks are denoted by the presence of a baby antelope and straight horns. Male Chiwara masks have bent horns and a phallus. The sex of a Chiwara mask is much clearer on horizontal and vertical masks while abstract masks tend to be difficult to classify.

The appearance of the Chiwara form varies greatly both by region and time produced. Specific master wood carvers also subtly modified the accepted (or even religiously mandated) local forms, forming a distinct “signature” or “school” of Chiwara figures.[1] These regional variations have been roughly assigned the stylistic categories above. Thus the Bougouni / Southern region style are an amalgam of several animal motifs combined in the same work, in an abstract style; the Bamako / Northern region style is usually of the horizontal style; the Segu/ Northern region style (the heartland of the Bambara Empire) matches the vertical style with the unique “cut out” triangular body motif of the males. Other regional styles have been proposed, including the Sikasso region style, with a thin, delicate, vertical form within almost human, snout less fac

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Bamana Antelope Headdress