Bamana people, Mali.
Wood. 100 cm high.
The Museum of African Art owns characteristic, representative examples of masks from the western and central African region, and Bamana and Dogon masks lead in number.
There are two essential parts of the Chi Wara mask: the base or horizontal representation of the animal’s body, most often aardvark, or chameleon, oval or of geometric shape. The second part of the mask rises from the body of the animal in the shape of an antelope’s head, with a strong mane and long horns. The neck line and downward elongated muzzle dominate, while others have an emphasized mane which stretches from the top of the antelope’s head down to the body of the sculpted animal.
Once finished the mask becomes the property of the Chi Wara association. Before the farming ceremonies begin, which mark the sowing and harvest seasons, the masks are washed and then coated in Shea-tree (Vitelarie paradoxa) butter. In order to enhance their effective power, masks are decorated with additional materials such as cowrie shells, thin metal sheets, pieces of cloth and the like. With the finalisation of all preparatory measures the masks are ready for use.