Dance Headdress (Ci-wara Kun)
Arts of Africa
ART OF DOUBLES
Duality is present in art throughout the continent as an expression of essential concepts that drive human nature—from gender to humanity’s place in the cosmos. This pair of pairs illustrates some of the ways that artists have expressed these ideas.
Ere ibeji are carved by the Yoruba primarily as memorial figures for twins. Because twins are considered spiritually powerful beings, with power to provide considerable good or to inflict harm, ibeji figures are the focus of great personal interaction and care. Such figures are considered a point of access to the spirit of a departed twin, and an icon of status for a mother of twins.
Worn on the heads of male dancers, ci-wara headdresses are danced in male and female pairs to symbolize the fertility of land and animals. Each headdress represents an antelope, which for the Bamana is a metaphor for the successful farmer who tirelessly tills his fields.
late 19th-early 20th century
36 3/8 x 14 1/4 x 2 7/8 in. (92.4 x 36.2 x 7.3 cm)
Gift of Rosemary and George Lois
Male: antelope headdress in vertical style with glossy, deep reddish brown patina. The mane consists of three sweeping curved bands with elaborate openwork "V" shaped configurations in each band. Head is narrow and snout is elongated. There are incised decorative notches on head and on both sides of body near tail. Horns are very tall and bifurcated - tips are carved almost at right angle near top. Horns decorated with incised grooves. Edges of ears are notched. Condition: very good. Proper left ear has native repair; metal plate is nailed across crack at top edge.
This item is not on view
Bamana. Dance Headdress (Ci-wara Kun), late 19th-early 20th century. Wood, metal, 36 3/8 x 14 1/4 x 2 7/8 in. (92.4 x 36.2 x 7.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Rosemary and George Lois, 77.245.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 77.245.1_SL1.jpg)
overall, 77.245.1_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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What was the importance of this kind of animal to the Bamana people?
Antelope were connected to fertility of animals and the land. They were a metaphor for the successful farmer who works hard to till his fields. The horns are said to represent ears of millet and the zig zag shape of the mane is thought to be a reference to the movements of the sun. The placement of the baby antelope on the back of the female headdress mirrors the way Bamana mothers carry their own children and references the link between animals, plants, and human fertility.