Male Ci Wara Crest from a Masquerade Ensemble

Bamana artist

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 136

With menacing horns and a spectral bodily presence this at once powerful and elegant creation constitutes a tribute to the mythical Bamana culture hero, Ci Wara. In this historically agrarian society, mastery of the knowledge necessary to harness the forces of nature in order to produce sustenance is seasonally celebrated with performances of paired masquerades. The visual focal point of these tributes are the carved sculptural elements worn as crests. These bold abstract forms fuse together the features of creatures drawn from nature including the roan antelope, the anteater, and the pangolin. In these dances the choreography simulates the tilling of the soil, the cascading vegetable fiber costume evokes the rains, and the male headdress references the radiance of life-giving sun. Bamana sculptors have endlessly reinterpreted the formal design of the classic Ci Wara headdress. The author of this work has produced an utterly original landmark striking for its alternation of bold materiality with negative space.

Male Ci Wara Crest from a Masquerade Ensemble, Bamana artist, Wood, metal, Bamana

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