Chi-wara/Tji-wara
Bamana/Bambara
The tji wara society members use a headdress representing, in the form of an antelope, the mythical being who taught
men how to farm. The word tji means “work” and wara means “animal,” thus “working animal.” There are antelopes with
vertical or horizontal direction of the horns. In the past the purpose of the tji wara association was to encourage
cooperation among all members of the community to ensure a successful crop. In recent time, however, the Bamana
concept of tji wara has become associated with the notion of good farmer, and the tji wara masqueraders are regarded
as a farming beast. The Bambara sponsor farming contests where the tji wara masqueraders perform. Always
performing together in a male and female pair, the coupling of the antelope masqueraders speaks of fertility and
agricultural abundance.

According to one interpretation, the male antelope represents the sun and the female the earth. The antelope imagery
of the carved headdress was inspired by a Bamana myth that recounts the story of a mythical beast (half antelope and
half human) who introduced agriculture to the Bamana people. The dance performed by the masqueraders mimes the
movements of the antelope. Antelope headdress in the vertical style, found in eastern Bamana territory, have a pair of
upright horns. The male antelopes are decorated with a mane consisting of rows of openwork zigzag patterns and
gracefully curved horns, while the female antelope supports baby antelopes on their back and have straight horns. The
dancers appeared holding two sticks in their hands, their leaps imitating the jumps of the antelopes.

Sources: A History of Art in Africa / Africa - The Art of a Continent
Examples below for reference purposes, mainly of male figures
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF DR. AND MRS. PASCAL JAMES IMPERATO
A BAMANA ANTELOPE HEADDRESS

LOCATION    ESTIMATE    AUCTION DATE     
New York  7,000—10,000 USD  Session 1
14 May 04 10:15 AM

Lot Sold.  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:   28,800 USD

measurements note
height 41in. 104cm

tji wara, of overall stylized attenuated form, the angled legs supporting the cylindrical body and the arching
openwork mane terminating in a delicately tapered vertical head with leather tassles and metal sheets
attached, the pointed ears framing the arching horns with leather-covered tips, decorated overall with
incised linear and notched motifs; deep brown patina.

PROVENANCE
Collected by the owner in the Segou region of Mali near Fana, January 11, 1967


CATALOGUE NOTE

Cf. Imperato (1970: 8-13, 71-80) and Zahan (1980) for related headdresses and extended discussion of
the function and meaning of these headdresses worn during agrarian-themed ceremonies among the
Bamana.
Sotheby's - New York
African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art
Auction Date : May 12, 2005

Lot 41 :  PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION A
BAMANA ANTELOPE HEADDRESS

Description
tji wara, of overall tall arching, slender form, the rectangular
base supporting the stylized body with openwork mane
leading to the dramatically overarching head with metal
overlay, supporting pointed ears and spiralling, upswept
horns; varied deep brown patina.

PROVENANCE

Michel Anstett, Paris
Acquired from Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, January
21, 1967, lot 2

Dimensions
height 38 3/4 in. 98.5cm

Estimate:
$ 6,000 - $ 9,000
Sotheby's - New York
African & Oceanic Art
Auction Date : Nov 14, 2003

Lot 4 :  A BAMANA ANTELOPE HEADDRESS

Description
DETAILED DESCRIPTION
tji wara, in the form of a roan male, the square base pierced
for attachment supporting the stylized body beneath the
arching neck and mane carved in intricate openwork form
leading to a pointed elongated head framed by upswept
ears and long horns, with repoussé metal plates decorating
the face, the nose pierced for the suspension of cowrie
shells, the horns with metal bands and tufts of black hair;
varied blackened patina.

Dimensions
height 32in. 81.5cm


Estimate:$ 6,000 - $ 9,000  
Price Realized:
$ 12,000    


Provenance
PROPERTY FROM A NEW YORK COLLECTION

Jay C. Leff Collection
Sotheby's - New York
Arts of Africa, Oceania & The Americas
Auction Date : May 17, 2002

Lot 57 :  A FINE BAMANA ANTELOPE HEADDRESS

Description
tji wara, in the form of a male antelope, with angular legs standing on a rectangular base
pierced for attachment, the transverse body supporting the tall, openwork mane terminating
to the pointed head with tall ears and long arching horns, `A39' in white pigment at the
base; fine varied and encrusted patina.


Estimate:$ 12,000 - $ 18,000  
Price Realized:
$ 13,145    


Provenance
Pace Primitive and Ancient Art, New York
Bonhams - London
Oriental Ceramics and Tribal Art
Auction Date : Dec 19, 2001

Lot 262 :  A Bamana male antelope headdress (Tji-wara), Mali,

Estimate:$ 448 - $ 597  
Price Realized:
$ 775  
Sotheby's - New York
African and Oceanic Art
Auction Date : Nov 16, 2001

Lot 15 :  A Bamana antelope headdress

Description
A Bamana antelope headdress tji wara, rising from a rectangular base pierced
through, the four legs repaired at the joints, and supporting the cylindrical horizontal
body with a pointed tail and a slender arching neck with elaborate openwork mane
leading to the slender pointed head with upward pointing ears and horns decorated
with incised notches and striations; varied medium brown patina. height 35 3/4 in.
(90.8cm.)

Dimensions
height 35 3/4 in. (90.8


Estimate:$ 7,000 - $ 10,000  
Price Realized:
$ 0
Sotheby's - New York
African and Oceanic Art
Auction Date : Nov 16, 2001

Lot 14 :  A Bamana antelope headdress, Kenedougou region

Description
A Bamana antelope headdress, Kenedougou region tji wara, of enormous
proportions, standing on a square base, the four short legs supporting an elongated
body, and an arching neck with elaborate openwork mane, the downturned faceted
head decorated with geometric metal plates, surmounted by pointed ears and long
pointed horns; varied dark brown patina. height 49 1/8 in. (1.25m.)

Dimensions
height 49 1/8 in. (1.25


Estimate:$ 4,000 - $ 6,000  
Price Realized:
$ 15,600    


Provenance
Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York Museum for Primitive Art, New York Parke-Bernet
Galleries, New York, May 4, 1967, lot 15
Mali, Bamana (African)
Pair of Antelope Headdresses, 20th Century

North Carolina Museum of Art

Tji Wara headdresses are carved from wood and are often ornamented with hammered metal.
They are usually seen in pairs, one representing the male and the other a female with a baby
on her back. The figures have a composite form, combining abstracted animal and natural
features. The form partly derives from the body of a roan antelope, a reference to a half-man,
half-antelope god named Tji Wara, who is said to have given the gift of farming to the Bamana
people. The antelopes’ horns may also suggest tall stalks of grain, such as the millet that
grows in this area of western Africa. The headdresses have the long noses of an aardvark.
Like the farmer who plows the soil, this type of anteater burrows his nose in the earth to find
his food. The figures not only refer to animals associated with farming, but they also mimic the
bent form and hoeing action of a farmer. The Bamana believe that the best farmers are always
bent over hoeing.

How and why were these worn?
Antelope headdresses like these are worn in Bamana community festivals that celebrate
agriculture. The masquerade begins in the fields and moves into a community center.
Champion farmers from the Mande-speaking area of central Mali are selected as maskers, or
the individuals who perform at these events. The farmers’ bodies are covered in raffia
costumes, which sound like rain when the dancers move to music. The wooden headdresses
are attached to the top of dancers’ heads with woven caps. The men also carry long sticks
they use to support themselves like another pair of legs. Dancers make leaping movements
like the antelope and hoeing actions as if they are working in the fields. Some performances
even include hoeing contests.

What role does the community play in these performances?
The dancers selected to take part in the masquerade are known as Tji Wara. Their excellent
farming skills make them worthy of honoring the deity with their dance. There is also an
association within each community that preserves these traditions and transmits knowledge
about the seasons, crops, and soil to younger generations. The performances offer these Tji
Wara societies opportunities to compete with one another and show off their farming skills.

While the farmers dance, females in the community imitate the movements of the dancers and
sing songs that praise the virtues of farming. Their involvement in the celebration symbolizes
how important marital cooperation is to successful farming. The performances are also meant
to teach younger generations the skills and values associated with farming. The cross-
generational nature of these performances reinforces the continuity of the community.
A pair in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY
Female (right) 19 1/2 inches tall
Male (left) 24 1/2 inches

A really wonderful, in my opinion, pair of Tji waras. Both are unique and very well carved with nice lines and features with great detail.
I was instantly drawn to them and they are by far my favorite pair of Tji wara figures I have had in my collection to date.

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