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Antelope Headdress (Ci Wara)

According to Bamana beliefs, humankind learned how to farm from a half-man, half-antelope deity known as Ci Wara. To honor this deity and to ensure his blessings on farm fields, men formed associations named after him, for which elaborate male and female antelope headdresses such as this were created. This one can be identified as male by the powerful and elaborate neck and mane; in addition, the female headdresses nearly always depict an infant antelope on the larger one’s back. Though the headdresses and their performances have lost much of their spiritual significance in most Bamana areas today, they have become a cultural symbol of Mali, and for many Westerners, the headdresses are icons of African art.

Bamana peoples, Mali
Antelope Headdress (Ci Wara)
First half of the 20th century
Wood
H. 35 5/8 in. (90.5 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift of Frederick Stafford, 60.10