I am a part of the Bambara people. In the beginning we were hunters living in a hostile environment with no constant supply of resources. Later around the 16th to the 20th we learned to cultivate fields and tend to crops. There was an increase in permanent settlement and the philosophy of sculptural forms dedicated to the supreme beings especially the Beast god Chi Wara. I make the sculptural forms resembling an antelope that symbolizes Chi Wara. This sculpture piece is actually a mask or a headdress that the Kore society wears during the Chi Wara festival honoring each farming season.

The Bambara people speak a Mande language and number a total of about a million. Although we are exposed to strong Islamic influences, we have preserved a significant amount of our religion and traditional manner of life. Sculptures, masks and headpieces are the most produced works of art among our society. The art works are usually made by professional craftsmen, who also engage in wood-carving.

There are different levels of organization in the Bambara group. They are the Komo, Kore and Ntomo organization. Headraces are made for each of these origination showing the importance of the people and their purpose in society. The Komo are the most important, they are the elder and hence been around for a long time. The elder are important because it is with them the preservation of the society starts. We can find out about our ancestors through the older people in the society. The Kore, the organization I belong to, are the able bodied individuals who tend the farms and create a positive living environment for the community. The next organization are the Ntomo, the youngest of the society. They are in training and are going through an initiation process.

Art in our society has a purpose. For example, the sculptures we make are images of ancestors, fertility fetishes and twin statues. It is usually the eldest of the group; the Komo or the equivalent but an elderly woman that present these work of arts as a intervention for rain, a rich harvest, good health and different other purposes. Masks are used at feasts and dances of societies which have diverse social and cult functions. Male and female headpieces are used jointly at dancings.

The Bambara are known our Chi Wara; masks in the shape of antelopes. The antelope is the emblem of my people. This antelope motif has been repeated and modified with every craft person. On the upper Niger, the horizontal type of Chi Wara can be found. This trait of the horns curving upwards and outward. The vertically upright horned Chi Wara can be found in the villages of Buguni. the Bambara say that this form is an older form and is and attribute of a wild antelope dance. In the areas of Segu, San, and Kutiala the horns are vertically accentuated. I fashion the Chi Wara masks according to this design because I am from the region of Segu.

Category: Miscellaneous