By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)
The Bamana people of Mali are able to achieve a measure of control over the abundance of their fields and crops through the spirit Ci Wara, who taught them agriculture. The Bamana carve crests that are worn on top of the head by male performers in reenactments of the encounters between Ci Wara and humankind. The crests take the form of male and female antelopes, or of combinations of antelope, ant-eater, and human forms. They are worn by members of a jow (association) of men and women whose purpose is to teach farming skills and to ensure a good harvest. The thin, delicate, female crest seen here represents a female antelope with her infant on her back.