"Ci wara" headdresses from Mali are among the most widely known and admired of all African art forms and their characteristic elegant abstraction is valued both in Bamana society and the West. The term "ci wara" encompasses several distinct but related performative genres. Among the Bamana, the invention of agriculture and the understanding of earth, animals, and plants were at one time attributed to a mythical culture hero named Ci Wara. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, this knowledge was shared among members of a men's agricultural association, also called "ci wara". Ceremonial dances performed by "ci wara" members celebrate the skills of successful farmers as well as the benevolence of Ci Wara's gift of agriculture to humanity. The outstanding feature of "ci wara" dances was the performance of a pair of gracefully designed, sculpted headdresses in the form of antelopes.
Collected in 1969 by Pascal James Imperato in Mali, Cercle of Ségou, Arrondissement of Sanando; Pascal James Imperato, Manhasset, NY, until 2010
LaGamma, Alisa. Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture. New York, New Haven and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002, 44, 89.