- Exhibitions & Events
Learn about the legend of the Chi Wara and the different animals that make up this mythical creature. Explore a drawing activity with family members or friends to create your own symbolic creature.
Take a look at the art in the slideshow at the top of the page. Click the arrow to see more than one image. What do you see?
Both of these art objects are crest masks. They were made to be attached to a cap and worn on top of the head.
These crest masks were made around 50–100 years ago by the Bamana people. The Bamana people live primarily in West Africa.
These crest masks represent a mythical creature called the Chi Wara.
The Chi Wara is a legendary creature that is a combination of three different animals.
Which three animals do you think make up the Chi Wara? Where do you see those animals on the artwork?
The animals that make up the Chi Wara are an antelope, aardvark, and pangolin. All three animals have characteristics that connect to farming:
In the Bamana language, "Chi Wara" means "excellent farmer" or "wild farming animal."
The Chi Wara spirit is believed to have taught the Bamana people to farm the dry savannah of Mali.
According to Bamana legend, Chi Wara used its antlers to dig into the earth, making it possible for humans to use the land for farming. Humans learned how to farm from Chi Wara and soon their lands became bountiful with crops. However, the humans were wasteful with their food, and the Chi Wara was disappointed. Chi Wara buried itself in the earth and disappeared.
The Bamana people decided to create a mask to honor and remember the Chi Wara.
Only the best farmers in the community can wear the Chi Wara crest mask during ceremonies at the beginning and end of the farming season.
Work with two family members or friends to create a symbolic mythical creature of your own by combining different animals!