MSSU African Art Exibit : The MSSU African Art collection features a variety of authentic works of art from various tribes located throughout Central Africa. The objects in the collection range from mundane day to day grooming tools to ritualistic masks and statues.
Tji Wara Society, Male Antelope Headdress
Object Name:
Headdress, Tji Wara, Bamana, Male
Other Name:
Ritual, Antelope, Bambara
Place of Origin:
Bamana (Bambara), Mali, Africa
Aboriginal Indigenous Art.

The Tji Wara Society members use a headdress representing, in the form of an antelope, the mythical being who taught men how to farm. The word tji means “work” and wara means “animal,” thus “working animal.” There are antelopes with vertical or horizontal direction of the horns. In the past the purpose of the tji wara association was to encourage cooperation among all members of the community to ensure a successful crop. In recent time, however, the Bambara concept of tji wara has become associated with the notion of good farmer, and the tji wara masqueraders are regarded as a farming beast. The Bambara sponsor farming contests where the tji wara masqueraders perform. Always performing together in a male and female pair, the coupling of the antelope masqueraders speaks of fertility and agricultural abundance. According to one interpretation, the male antelope represents the sun and the female the earth. The antelope imagery of the carved headdress was inspired by a Bambara myth that recounts the story of a mythical beast (half antelope and half human) who introduced agriculture to the Bambara people. The dance performed by the masqueraders mimes the movements of the antelope. Antelope headdress in the vertical style, found in eastern Bambara territory, have a pair of upright horns. The male antelopes are decorated with a mane consisting of rows of openwork zigzag patterns and gracefully curved horns, while the female antelope supports baby antelopes on their back and have straight horns. The dancers appeared holding two sticks in their hands, their leaps imitating the jumps of the antelopes. From the artistic point of view the tji wara are probably the finest examples of stylized African art, for with a delicate play of line the sensitive carvings display the natural beauty of the living antelope.
Wooden male antelope headdress. Elongated pointed face with long pointed ears and very long, curved, grooved horns or antlers, wrapped in leather at the ends, with tufts of animal hair attached. Two rows of openwork zigzag patterns with serrated outer most edge, a single first row separate from the other two, adorn the center area. Small back and short square legs, over oval—shaped lower base. Copper or brass colored metal covers front and sides of face, as well as sides of back. Three small red puffs of cloth attached to ears and end of nose. Dark brown patina covering entire wooden surfaces.
Guy Mace Collection, (Turblex Company)
Wood W/Metal, Animal Hair, Patina, Leather and Cloth
Ritually Used
Carving / Weaving / Painting / Metal Works
Art Department, Missouri Southern State University
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