This page is a record of an exhibit that took place
in 1992. The individual links below will take you to
the CURRENT VERSION of the pages
that formed part of that exhibit.
Our show, Art of the Bamana, celebrated an African people with a rich
sculptural heritage. Also known as the Bambara and residing in Western Mali,
they produce a varied body of traditional headdresses, masks, statues, marionettes,
puppets, door locks, textiles and iron figures. Bamana stylized antelope
headdresses, Chi wara (or Tji wara), among the best known African sculptures,
honored the "working animal" and were danced to increase the fertility
of the earth. On display are examples of the three major types; the Eastern
vertical headdresses, in a variety of sizes and styles; the Bamako area
horizontal style and the unusual curving composiffons of the Southern style.
Many include the underlying basketwork and other additions.
Bamana masks were used by, and named for, secret societies. N'Tomo (or Ndomo) masks include up to ten horns in a row and include examples covered with metal or cowrie shells. Kore masks, representing different animals, were used in appeals for rain and agricultural abundance. Kono masks, heavily encrusted, are large, horizontal animal heads with long jaws. Also included are masks of nearby independent ethnic roups with similar styles; the Marka, Malinke and Bozo, all with metal additions and strong, bold forms. Statues in the exhibition include large maternity pieces, dignified displays for fertility; figures portraying the Bamana ideal of beauty; rare and unusual fetish figures and post sculptures; and the highly stylized Janus-headed figures, many with metal sheeting worked in repousee. Marionette figures and puppets, with moving limbs or jaws, were used to tell stories and satirize customs. The Bamana are also well known for their doors and doorlocks, similar to the neighboring Dogon people, and for ironwork figures, horsemen and staffs. We also have a fine selection of Bamana "mudoloths", the traditional narrow-strip cotton cloth textiles. The exhibition documents the creativity and wide-ranging artistic skill of the Bamana people.