Detail View: The AMICA Library: Headcrest Mask (Chi Wara)

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Costume and Jewelry
Wooden headcrest representing a vertical style female Orynx antelope with a small female baby standing on her back; figure standing on thick rectangular block with two center holes for attachment to a basketry cap; flat legs angle outward from corners of the block and join a thin flat body with short pointed extended tail; neck rises in hemispherical curve from front of body and joined to the back of the thin, elongated head; round ears with recessed centers on sides of head; long, straight horns with spiral grooves and smooth tips extend upward above ears; human-like mouth and nostrils at pointed end of snout; head decorated with bands of punched triangles; baby stands on back behind mother's neck with a slight backward angle; two separate flat rear legs and one solid flat front leg; baby's style and decoration identical to mother's; surface blackened by smith's smoke, soot and rubbing.
Creator Nationality: 
Creator Name-CRT: 
Bamana, Mali
Headcrest Mask (Chi Wara)
Full view
Creation Date: 
20th century
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Classification Term: 
Creation Place: 
Mali, Africa
Height: 32"; width: 9"
AMICA Contributor: 
Brooklyn Children's Museum
Owner Location: 
Brooklyn, New York, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David G. Gerofsky, 1972
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.
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