Passport mask "Bamana"
Bamana people, Mali, 20th century, private collection from Netherlands.
The Bamana people (called also Bambara, Banmana) are a Mandé ethnic group native to much of West Africa, primarily upper Niger region Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Gambia whose language, Bambara belongs to the Mandé branch of the Niger-Congo language family. The Bamana people are the famous ancient people that formed the great pre-colonial Bamana Kingdom and short-lived Kaarta Kingdom. The name "Bambara" means "unbeliever" or "the ones who refused submission" (from "ban" the word for "end, refuse" and "mana", meaning "masters, Mansa"). the group acquired the name because it resisted Islam after the religion was introduced in 1854 by Tukulor conqueror El hadj Umar Tal.
The Bamana economy is based on cattle and agriculture. The millet, sorghum and groundnuts are their main crops. In private gardens are grown cassava, tobacco, sorghum, maize, rice, gourds, tomatoes. The Bamana also hunt animals such as boars, ostrich and antelope.
The Bamana are a patrilinear and patriarchal society, though virtually no women wear a veil. Mandé culture is known for its strong fraternal orders and sororities (called Ton) and the history of the Bambara Empire strengthened and preserved these orders. The Bamana believe in one god (called Bemba or Ngala) who is creator of all things and has, in a way, created himself as a quaternity. This quaternity consists a Bemba himself, Mousso Koroni Koundyé, Faro and Ndomadyiri. The last three correspond to the four elements - air, fire, water and earth. The religion is directly related to the six principle initiation societies (called Jow, Dyow) in Bamana culture. Through the levels of education the initate learns the importance of knowledge and secrecy, is taught to challenge sorcery and learns about dual life of mankind etc.
Bamana artworks were created both for religious use and to define cultural and religious difference. Bamana art include beautiful weawing (Bògòlanfini), fertility figures, powerfigures (Bol), pottery etc. They also have extensive masking traditions, which are used as a form of social control and community education. Each mask has its own type, the style and symbolism of which would be understood by initiates. Each of the masks represents a different point in the initiation and education of the men (including such as N'tomo, Korè, Nama, Komo, Kono and Chi Wara).
Lovely small passport mask. West African miniature masks, too small to be worn, replicate the forms of masks worn in performance. Passport masks have a multiple purpose: they are proof of membership of particular clan or society, they are carried about the person when traveling (hence the name: passport mask), they were used as a powerful charm for personal protection during forest work and for hunting, and they allow the owner to participate in certain rituals. Normally, the passport masks are not performed and are usually hidden from prying eyes. Like their larger counterparts passport masks are filled with spirit, with potential for good or evil.
Relatively good condition. Age-related heavy wear and signs of ceremonial use over the many years. Light old wood. Gorgeous encrusted patina. Smoothed features. Cracks, fractures and worm holes. Dirt, dust and soil. Size approx. 33,5cm x 7,5cm.