Bambara Tji Wara Headdress

  • Tribe: Bamana
  • Origin: Mali
  • Approx Age: Early to Mid 20C
  • Materials: Wood, original material tufts
  • Dimensions cm: 86 tall x 30 wide
  • Ref. Number: 0074

Bambara Tji Wara Headdress

This is a beautiful example of a traditional style male  Bambara Tji Wara / Chi Wara headdress. It was collected in Mali in 1971 by a German collector, It has very good wear patina especially where it would have been held on to the head and on the horns where it would be picked up.

Bambara Tji Wara Chi Wara

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The tji wara society members use a headdress representing, in the form of an antelope, the mythical being who taught men how to farm. The word tji means “work” and wara means “animal,” thus “working animal.” There are antelopes with vertical or horizontal direction of the horns. In the past the purpose of the tji wara association was to encourage cooperation among all members of the community to ensure a successful crop. In recent time, however, the Bamana concept of tji wara has become associated with the notion of good farmer, and the tji wara masqueraders are regarded as a farming beast. The Bambara sponsor farming contests where the tji wara masqueraders perform. Always performing together in a male and female pair, the coupling of the antelope masqueraders speaks of fertility and agricultural abundance.

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According to one interpretation, the male antelope represents the sun and the female the earth. The antelope imagery of the carved headdress was inspired by a Bamana myth that recounts the story of a mythical beast (half antelope and half human) who introduced agriculture to the Bamana people. The dance performed by the masqueraders mimes the movements of the antelope. Antelope headdress in the vertical style, found in eastern Bamana territory, have a pair of upright horns. The male antelopes are decorated with a mane consisting of rows of openwork zigzag patterns and gracefully curved horns, while the female antelope supports baby antelopes on their back and have straight horns. The dancers appeared holding two sticks in their hands, their leaps imitating the jumps of the antelopes.


Sources: A History of Art in Africa  – The Art of a Continent