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HOME : African & Tribal Art : AS.On Loan : Bamana Bronze Zoomorphic Sculpture
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Bamana Bronze Zoomorphic Sculpture - PF.4637 (LSO)
Origin: Southeastern Mali/Burkina Faso
Circa: 17 th Century AD to 19 th Century AD
Dimensions: 12.5" (31.8cm) high x 12" (30.5cm) wide
Catalogue: V24
Collection: African
Medium: Bronze

Additional Information: AS

Location: UAE
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This powerful sculpture was made by the Bamana (Bambara) tribal group of Mali. It is essentially equine, with a long back, a columnar neck and an elongated head. However, the resemblance is weakened by the presence of what appear to be scales (?) on the back, rendered as interlaced hatched, incised lines. It has an almost human face, and bears a large plate-like eminence atop the head. The quality of work is superb, and the patination implies a long history of handling and usage. There is a minor casting flaw on the left side of the animal’s chest.

The Bambara/Bamana is 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 (i.e. Tichitt). The height of its imperial strength was reached in the 1780s under the rule of N’golo Diarra, who expanded their territory considerably. However, their influence waned in the 19th century and the empire fell to the French in 1892.

Their complex history is echoed in the systematics of indigenous art traditions. There are four main mask forms, related to the n’tomo, Komo, Nama and Kore societies. Other forms include the famous Chi-Wara headcrest, which was used to encourage good harvests. Heavily encrusted zoomorphic “Boli” figures are also known, along with everyday items include iron staffs, wooden puppets and equestrian figures, which double as accessories for male initiation ceremonies.

The identity of this piece is uncertain – it may be a deliberately distorted representation of a horse, or a mythological creature. If it is a horse, it is likely to represent something of a prestige object, as horses are exclusively an elite preserve. This is a major work of Bamana art.

- (PF.4637 (LSO))


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