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Passport to the Past

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Crest Mask: Female Antelope (Chi Wara)

30 1/2 x 7 5/8 x 8 in. (77.5 x 19.4 x 20.3 cm)

Bamana artist

Bamana; made in Mali

Object Type: Sculpture
Medium and Support: Wood, cane, shell, yarn and brass
Credit Line: Gift of Isabel C. Herdle
Accession Number: 1993.14
Location: Currently on view
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In many cultures, gods and spirits take the form of animals. Selected for their physical or behavioral traits, features of different animals are combined to create mythical creatures whose symbolic powers are greater than those of ordinary beasts. This antelope crest mask combines the curved horns of an antelope, the curious snout and scales of a pangolin (a kind of anteater) and the squat body of an aardvark—all animals that dig up the earth. This makes them fitting representations of Chi Wara, the supernatural being the Bamana believe taught humans to farm. The masks were worn in male/female pairs during dance performances in the fields that taught and encouraged good farming. Today, because of conversion to Islam and a variety of social changes due to westernization, the Chi Wara masquerade is now performed for entertainment and cultural pride.
[Gallery label text, 2009]

Isabel C. Herdle, Rochester, NY; her gift to the Gallery in 1993

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MAGexplore MAGexplore provides in-depth information and close looking at over 200 objects in MAG's collection.
Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture This website for an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art includes video footage of ci wara dances.

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