By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)

Mali; Bamana peoples

Dance crest


H. 45.7 cm (18”)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.329

Ci Wara is the being who taught the Bamana to cultivate the soil.  Ci Wara is a combination of antelope, anteater, and human forms.  The antelope is a metaphor for the sun and the anteater for the earth, which it tears apart with its claws as a farmer tills the soil.  All of these creatures are disturbed when humankind burns the brushy wilderness and clears fields for farming, and so the crests represent the tension between nature and culture when humans leave the village, clear fields, plant, harvest, and carry the harvest back into the village.  This most abstract of the several styles of Ci Wara crests comes from the southern Bougouni area of Bamana country.  The squat body of the anteater supports the graceful form of the antelope's head and horns.