Guest Author - Jeanne Egbosiuba Ukwendu
A Chi Wara (also called Chiwara, Ci Wara, or Tyi Wara) is a ritual headdress with a stylized representation of an antelope. Some say the Chi Wara headdress may represent a combination of antelope, anteater, or pangolin. The Chi Wara is said to be one half man and one half antelope. Chi Wara is a mythical creature and founder of the Bamana tribe (Mali) said to have taught them successful farming.
The Chi Wara dance in the fields in a male/female pair. This is to teach that men and women must both work to guarantee a successful harvest. Generally, the female (representing earth) dances behind the male (representing sun). The pair of Chi Wara are covered with a fiber costume which represents rain. The faces of the dancers are covered and usually have their faces painted so you can't see their faces. The headdresses are tied to the dancers heads and they also carry a long staff. The male Chi Wara will leap around to represent the antelope and scratch the ground with his horns or staff as a demonstration on how to cultivate the earth to sow crops. The female dancer will fan the male dancer in order to spread his powers to the people gathered around.
The headdress, a stylized antelope, is created in both genders. On the right is a male Chi Wara headdress. The male headdress has bent horns and a phallus. The phallus is low to the ground symbolizing the fertilization of the ground for planting. The male Chi Wara has a zig zag pattern representing the sun's path in the sky.
The female version of the headdress, on the left, usually has straight horns (this example oddly has bent horns) and a baby Chi Wara. If you look closely at the baby on her back you can see it is a male - note the zig zag pattern and phallus.