Bambara "Tyiwara" - Mali
Those sculptures are commonly called antelop masks or Bambara crests. Their vernacular name « tyi wara kun » means « head of the beasts, champion of the agricultural work ». They are emblematic of Bambara initiation. There is different associations in this tribe. They are called « ton », « association or « tyikè ton ». They are linked to agricultural work and depend of the age of the members.
Each « ton » depends on a village. Young men and girls are divided depending on their age.
The « ton » has its own structures. It also has some personal belongings (masks, music instruments, marionettes, etc.). It has an altar symbolized by a hyena’s skull.
In September and October, some rituals celebrate the harvesting champions. The « tyiwara » crests are then worn, dignifying the person carrying it. The eldest champion carries the male crest while the youngest carries the female one. The crests are indeed always carried by couples, depicting themselves earth fertility. The two dancers are also wearing a long fiber skirt. Those costumes symbolize the mythical hyena. The holders mimic the posture of the hyena, they walk while holding sticks and bend on their legs.
Several styles of « tyiwara » associate different animals. The crest can then represent an animal, alone or carrying its child on its back. This « tyiwara » crest distinguishes itself by its small size and the elegance of its features.