Abstract Tji wara

This headdress represents the comparatively more abstract type of Chi Wara mask; which is
found primarily in the Ouassoulou region of the southwestern Bamana area. It shows a typical
combination of three different species of animal - the aardvark, the pangolin, and the roan
antelope.

The base of such headdresses is invariably formed by a representation of the aardvark. Here it
is clearly recognizable from the simplified but still relatively naturalistic elongated head, pointed
ears, arched body, and bent legs. The structure on the aardvark's back, circumscribed by a
nearly closed oval, represents a pangolin in the rolled up position it assumes in defense and to
protect its young. This stylized figure is surmounted by two vertical elements and by the horns
and long, pointed ears of an antelope. According to Zahan, all three animals are symbolically
linked in the Bamana farming community with tilling the soil, including it's sexual connotations.
The aardvark and pangolin, especially, are associated with the growth of sorghum, the
Bamana's most important grain crop. The aardvark's ability to dig rapidly into the ground and
create a network of subterranean tunnels and chambers recalls the men's skill at working the
fields, as well as the deep root system formed by the germinating sorghum seeds. The
pangolin, in contrast, which lives mostly on the ground and in trees, recalls the windblown stalks
of millet, which are stabilized by air-roots anchored in the ground.
Sources: A History of Art in Africa and Africa and Africa - The Art of A Continent
Abstract Tji Wara from the Southern Bamana region.
26" high

(THIS OBJECT IS NO LONGER IN MY COLLECTION)
Examples below for reference purposes
Abstract Tji-Wara from the book
"African Masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection"
Sotheby's - New York
African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art
Auction Date : Nov 11, 2004

Lot 39 :  A FINE BAMANA, BOUGOUNI OR DIOÏLA REGION, HEADDRESS

Description
tji wara, the base pierced for attachment beneath a figure with bent legs and a rounded body
with rows of incised motifs folding to a medial ridge, with a small face at the front and a tail at
the back surmounted by an openwork mane and gracefully arching head with extended horns
and pointed ears with fiber attachments; fine and varied, slightly encrusted deep brown patina.

Dimensions
height 17 3/4 in. 45cm


Estimate:$ 10,000 - $ 15,000  
Price Realized:
$ 12,000    


Provenance
PROPERTY FROM A CHICAGO PRIVATE COLLECTION

Doctor Gaston Durville, Paris
Acquired from Pace Gallery, New York, June 1983

Notes
This tji wara represents a composite of the hippotragus antelope and a pangolin. In Bamana
mythology, the antelope is the bringer of agrarian knowledge. Likewise, the pangolin, a
burrowing animal, knows how to till the soil having witnessed the bringing together of the earth
by God (Zahan 1980: 74; quoted in Colleyn 2001: 204). See ibid. 230-233 for related
headdresses.
From a Sotheby's auction in London
A Bamana carver making an abstract Tji-Wara
Photo source:
Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives