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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Bambara Sculptures : Bambara Iron Sculpture of an Antelope
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Bambara Iron Sculpture of an Antelope - PF.4464 (LSO)
Origin: Central Mali
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 6.25" (15.9cm) high x 10.375" (26.4cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Iron

$3,000.00
Location: United States
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Description
This attractive iron figure of a gazelle was made by the Bamana/Bambara group of Mali. The creature is shown with a curved back, flexed legs, a curved tail and a long muzzle, counterbalanced by very long, spiral-twist horns. The colour is variegated due to age, handling and oxidization.

The Bambara/Bamana are one of the largest groups in Mali (about 2.5 million) and lives in a savannah grassland area that contrasts strongly with the Dogon heartland. Their linguistic heritage indicates that they are part of the Mande group, although their origins go back perhaps as far as 1500 BC in the present-day Sahara. They gave rise to the Bozo, who founded Djenne in an area subsequently overrun by the Soninke Mande (<1100 AD). Their last empire dissolved in the 1600s, and many Mande speakers spread out along the Nigeria River Basin. The Bamana empire arose from these remnant populations in around 1740. The height of its imperial strength was reached in the 1780s under the rule of Ngolo Diarra, who expanded their territory considerably.

They have a very complex caste-based social system, while age, sex and occupation groups are also classed to reflect their social importance. This complex structure is echoed in the systematics of indigenous art traditions. Everyday items include iron staffs, wooden puppets and equestrian figures; their sexually-constructed anthropomorphic door locks are especially well-known. There are four main mask forms, related to the n’tomo, Komo, Nama and Kore societies. Dyonyeni figures were used by the Dyo secret society to celebrate the end of initiation ceremonies. Heavily encrusted zoomorphic Boli figures serve an apotropaic function, while Guandousou, Guantigi and Guanyenni figures, that are used by the Gwan secret society to promote fertility and social balance. Metal figures were used to celebrate the passing over of important people, and equestrian figures were placed near to major shrines during initiation ceremonies. There is no specific mention of metal gazelle figures in the literature, but the gazelle is linked to the Chi-Wara agricultural legend, which states that a half man half gazelle – descended from a sky goddess and a earth spirit in the guise of a cobra – taught the first Bamana how to farm. They are thus celebrated in Chi-Wara headdresses, and perhaps in this charming figure.

- (PF.4464 (LSO))

 

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