This antelope head dress represents the spirit of Chi Wara. It was worn by young men during ceremonies to bring in the harvest. Chi Wara is a spirit who introduced the knowledge of agriculture to the Bambara.
This head dress is described as a ritual object. Dances are performed by young men in pairs during the time of planting, are to ensure germination and a good harvest.
The Bambara are a Mandé ethnic group native to much of West Africa, primarily southern Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Senegal. Today they make up the largest Mandé ethnic group in Mali, with 80% of the population speaking the Bambara language, regardless of ethnicity.
During my research I noticed that the term “Chi Wara” or chi wara is used to represent the physical ritual object and/or references the spirit who in the form of an antelope introduced agriculture to the Bambara people. In African Art by Frank Willett, the theme of a spirit occupying or living within a ritual object in some African cultures and ceremonies is reoccurring. Once the ritual or ceremony is completed the object is no longer occupied by the spirit. I stress that every African culture is different and this may not be the case for the Bambara people however I must take note on the use of the term. Chi Wara can also be spelled Tyiwara.
African Art by Frank Willett