In Africa, animal imagery is used to teach moral and historical lessons. Distinctive physical or behavioral traits may be combined to create mythical creatures with greater powers. These Bamana crest masks combine the horns of the antelope, the body of the aardvark and the textured skin of the pangolin--all animals that dig in the earth. Despite regional stylistic differences, they all represent Chi Wara, the supernatural being who taught people to farm.
Young men wear paired male and female masks in dances that praise and encourage good farmers. However, because of the introduction of the yoked plow, conversion to Islam and changes in patterns of employment and schooling, the performances have become increasingly more of a popular entertainment than an initiation society ceremony.
Wood crest mask composed of a seperate head and body in the form of a horizontal antelope with open mouth, long curving tail and chip carved textured skin. The mask has metal (sheet brass?) disk eyes and a neck joint collar.
Paul and Ruth Tishman, New York, -- to 1984
Artful Animals, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., July 1, 2009-July 25, 2010
Echoes of Africa, Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, September 2005-August 2007
For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1981
Vogel, Susan (ed). 1981. For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 24-25, no. 8.