BAMBARA

Area of Origin: Southwest Mali (Segou-Miniauka Districts), West Africa. The Bambara (also known as Bamana) were first mentioned in the 16th century chronicles of the Muslim Es-Sadi. Their name was then synonymous with "Idol Worshipers", in other words – non-Muslims. Mungo Park also mentioned their kingdom; it was already old by 1799 when his travels were published. In the 17th & 18th centuries they were said to have indulged in the slave trade in Africa (beside the Mossi and Asante). The Lobi suffered particularly from them.

The Chi/Tyi Warra Headdress (the figure itself is called ‘Sogoni-Kun’) was used for the Tyi Warra Dance by the Society of Cultivators. The dance was to invoke the fertility of the fields, animals and the Bamana themselves. Dancers always performed in pairs and the sculptures (one male, one female with calf) must never be parted lest the spirit may be upset. The spirit Tyi Warra introduced agriculture to the Bamana. Tyi=work, Warra=animal hence ‘working animal’, which represents the Roan Antelope, a horse-like ruminant whom the Bamana used to hunt. The figure is a silhouette and is a much abstracted, geometric representation of the real animal. In the male a powerful, curved neck with broad mane rises above a small body. The head is narrow with long, slightly curved horns. In the female the mane is replaced by a calf and the horns are straight.