Bambara constitute the majority of the population of today’s Mali. Proud of their traditions and of their ancient glory, they managed to elevate a barrier against cultural contaminations. Enclosed within dynamic Muslim ethnic groups, they have kept the traditional cults which still give to Bambara’s art its primary impulse. Without forcing the terminology, we can say that theology always determines their aesthetic. All their works present a common style, easily identifiable. The external appearance reminds of the piece of wood from which the sculpture derives; flat and curved surfaces are associated to angular contours, suggesting a kind of geometry.
This kind of masks was used by Bambara’s religious organisation of men called ‘dyo’. The object was worn horizontally on the head while dancing. The name of the mask comes from the fact that it was used during those initiation rituals granting access to the fourth level of the ‘dyo’ society; precisely this rank was called ‘kono’. The elongated mouth can be interpreted as a trunk or as a beak.
Tyi-wara mask – Bambara
This tyi-wara mask is carved in a blackened wood, colored in dull tones. It varies in height and stylization, based on the fact that can depict the male or female animal. These heads of antelope are among the most impressive works of all African art. Only the horns conform to the model; the rest is largely left to the creative imagination. The perforated motifs evoke the cervix and the mane. The ornamental structures, always respecting the conventional topics, obey at the same time to the variations of individual sculptors. The art expressed in the ty- wara crests seems to recall more vividly the viewer’s attention, thanks to its abstractness and creativity
Anthropomorphic Bambara mask
Anthropomorphic Bambara mask. This wooden mask has some typical features of Bambara portraiture. For example, the nose is long and straight, the mouth is small and prominent, the eyebrows are arched and dominant, while the forehead is slightly bulging. Everything is part of the oval and elongated face, with its softly polished surface.
Suruku mask by Bambara
Suruku mask by Bambara. This mask type belongs to the male initiates of the Korè association, while the elders introduce them to the rites and traditions. The present ‘suruku’ mask displays a hyena; it is made of wood of dark brown colour and has a concave face with a long snout. On the top of the head there are two small ears. The individual wearing the mask of the hyena does not take itself seriously; in fact, it’s the parody of whom fights against human stupidity, which spares no one.