Circa 20th century A.D.
The headcrest, in form of an antelope, is highly abstracted. The figure has zig-zagged legs, a striated tail, textured back, and a long neck, with an oversized head, featuring a diamond shaped pattern throughout, a long snout with protruding tongue, long upturned ears, and a long pair of horns that stretch past the length of the body
24.5 in. (61.6 cm.) wide and 13.5 in. (34.3 cm.) high
Chiwara headcrests are the greatest achievement of the Bamana people, in terms of conceptualization, composition and abstraction. They were controlled and danced by the Chi-Wara-Ton society, which is – rarely for the Bamana – a society of both men and women who are charged with blessing the harvest. The name “chiwara” means “laboring wild animal” and refers to a half-man, half antelope that was born of Mousso Koroni (a sky goddess) and an earth spirit in the form of a cobra. Chiwara then taught the Bamana how to farm, and is worshipped accordingly. The headcrests are designed to represent the roan antelope, in varying degrees of abstraction. There are various styles, simplified into vertical, horizontal and abstract: these refer to the general orientation of the head and “horns”: of the antelope. The only commonality between representations is the pair of high horns, a head, and a zig-zag motif that is believed to represent the passage of the sun from east to west. They are also gendered: the presence of a baby antelope and straight horns indicates that the latter is female, while male versions have bent horns and a phallus.