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Web of Art 17: Transformations, Masks and Shamans

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Antelope mask (chiwara).
19th-20th c African (West) Bamana Sculpture

BAMANA PEOPLES Anonymous (active 17th c - present) Primary
c. 1850-1950
19th-20th c
Western Sudan. Mali
Dijon. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon.
This antelope represents one of the most popular types of African sculptures. Uninformed admirers recognize the elegant and refined forms without understanding that the antelope was originally part of a dance costume. The antelope symbolizes Tyiwara, a legendary being who taught people how to cultivate the land with digging sticks. When a field was to be cleared, two dancers appeared, one wearing a figure like this, which represents the male, attached to a woven headdress, while his partner wore a corresponding figure of the female antelope. The male antelope is represented with a flowing mane, while the female is represented with a baby antelope on her back. The frolicking of the dancers was intended to propitiate the earth spirit and insure the fertility of the field.

Caption: BAMANA | Antelope mask (chiwara). | c. 1850-1950 | West African | Bamana

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