Auctions is pleased to offer a superb pair of carved "antelope" wood. Chi Wara or headdresses, from the Bambara, Mali, West Africa. Chi Wara headdresses are some of the most widely known and appreciated forms in African art.
According to legend, the ancestors of the Bamana learned to cultivate soil from a half man and half antelope creature called a Chi Wara. In honor of Chi Wara, the Bambara carve elaborate headdresses to be used in dance ceremonies. Dance ceremonies utilizing Chi Wara were once secret male ceremonies designed to instill in young boys the importance of diligent farming techniques. The dance masquerade in which Chi Wara headdresses appear is performed by champion farmers who are selected as maskers.
The headdresses are attached to woven raffia caps and their bodies are covered in raffia costumes. The maskers make leaping movements like antelopes and hoeing movements to signify working in the fields. As the farmers dance, females imitate their movements and sing praise songs.All Chi Wara activities are governed and sponsored by the Tye Wara Society. The word "tye" means work, and "wara, " animal. The purpose of the society or "association" is to solicit the blessings of Chi Wara, teach essential farming skills and promote festivals and contests.
The Chi Wara headdresses can be categorized into three distinct styles. The "vertical" style is distinguished by openwork carving representing the mane and neck of the antelope.The second style is elongated and called horizontal. " The final style is described as "abstract. This superb and highly characteristic "abstract" style. Measures approximately 10 inches in width by 6 inches in depth by 33 inches in height (25.4 cm by 15.2 cm by 83.8 cm).
They are in very good condition, including rubbing, minor scratches and small cracks, and probably date to the mid-20th century. A superb example of a very distinctive style of African sculptural art, and a rare opportunity to acquire an authentic pair of Chiwara, they would make a fine addition to any collection of African art. Our goal is to bring the same experience and excitement of collecting that we have been delivering in-person to collectors across the globe at Primitive in Chicago. Every object we sell online has been carefully hand-selected with special attention to detail, quality, and significance.