African Art

Ciwara Headdress

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood and brass tacks

10 1/2 x 3 3/4 x 21 1/8 in. (26.67 x 9.5 x 53.7 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn for the Linton Collection of African Art
1954.28.1
The performance of Chi Wara, the Farming Beast, commemorates an ancient animal/human deity who taught the ancestors to farm. The headdress is a combined form, with the head of an antelope, which leaps through the air and is associated with the sun, and the body of an aardvark, which digs for ants and is associated with the earth. A male and a female Chi Wara headdress are danced together in an agricultural ritual that promotes sexual union, fecundity, and unity in the cosmos. The dancers are male champion cultivators, who have earned the right to wear the headdresses. Through the performance, they celebrate this responsibility and arduous work.
Culture: 
Bamana
Period: 
19th–20th century
Classification: 
Masks
Geography: 
Made in Bamako or Beledugu region, Sahel, Mali
Status: 
On view*
Provenance: 

Dr. Ralph Linton, Sterling Professor of Anthropology at Yale, unknown date–1953
Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn donated to Yale University Art Gallery for the Linton Collection of African Art in 1954

Bibliography: 

Jessica Feinstein, “Art, Out of Africa,” Yale Daily News (January 30, 2004), B1, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.