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BAMBARA: HISTORY AND ART

(Bamana, Baumana, Banbara)

Mali

Bambara or bamana is one of the studied groups more of Western Africa. They are considered of origin commands and always they have narrowed commercial bows with its neighbors through marriages, interchanges, political alliances and with the religion. The triangle of the bamana country is divided in two by the Niger River and includes/understands the zones most of the west and the south of the present Mali. The dry savannah only allows an economy of subsistence and the Earth as soon as it produces mijo, rice and kidney beans. Arab texts of century XI count the history of cities as Djenné and Tombuctú whose inhabitants denominate “bambara”. At the beginning of Century XX they were colonized by the French.
 
The town bambara, formed by 1.900.000 members, distributes itself in regions that include the towns put under the authority of a family whose head, fame, representative of the founder, enjoy considerable powers. Also it has a fundamental function in the agrarian rituals. In 1940 the archaeologists discovered the tracks of previous kingdoms, as well as terra-cotta figures that the termolumínicos examinations allowed to date in the neighborhoods of year thousands. These pieces are the testimony of one long sculture tradition; the first wood figures would go back to century XIV.
 
Máscara etnia bambara
The bamana creates in the existence of spiritual forces that equip the individuals with the capacity to create an atmosphere of harmony, prosperity and well-being. Also they have a very complex cosmology. The initiation practices in more or less active associations of men according to the towns: n´tomo; komo, that governs the communitarian life; nama; kono, that regulates the insults to the morality; korè, and tyi wara, that reunites to the young agriculturists. These societies, directed by some old ones, have a political, economic and medical character, and exert a social control on the community.
 
In the south of the bamana country, the association dyo welcomes in men and women, but the initiation is shorter and less laborious for these last ones. The one of the men it lasts seven years and it culminates with his symbolic death and Renaissance. It is finished with great celebrations of masks in which they participate just initiated that goes of town in town. The initiates divide themselves in groups and the children of the blacksmiths dance in the presence of statues called nyeleni, feminine figures with wide and flat shoulders, raised and placed on a small circular base. Their conical sines project towards ahead (K. Ezra, 1986). In the celebrations of dyo and the ritual of they gwan bound to the fecundity exhibit sedentes figures. Around the Fifties they appeared in the market statues of women with a boy. They throughout kept the year in the altars and one cleaned them, it greased of oil and it adorned with dresses and to per them, having them in groups of two or five. They are of naturista style and they have greater volume than most of the known sculptures bamaba until the time. The body is massive, is carved in round, the shoulders are wide and the characteristics of the face have worked showing taken care of and interest by the detail. Have been representations of musicians and soldiers carrying a lance with he himself style that the previous ones. These statues illustrate the qualities that must have the initiated futures: beauty, knowledge, power. Each one of the figures “is explained” the initiates and transmits the vital force that contributes to the cohesion of puebo (K Ezra).
 
During the agricultural celebrations of the association tyi wara, the agriculturists takes hairdos in antelope form representing to the mythical personage who has taught to them to cultivate the Earth. In order to obtain an abundant harvest they dance during the phase of seedtime and the harvests imitating the passage of the antelope. The horn represents the symbol of the growth of mijo.
 
The association komo, directed by the blacksmiths, welcomes in all the adolescents after the circuncisión. It has a mask carcaterizada by a great mouth and the horns of antelope to which several add themselves to elements, like animal jaws. The mask, that only carries the blacksmiths, dances before the members of komo. Its disquieting aspect evokes the interior of the forest and its dangers, and according to its force is counted, is so considerable that it can kill an adversary. Each society has its own masks, their highest of hairdo or their marionettes. Those masks appear during the celebrations with occasion of a marriage, the inauguration of the market or under any pretext. With the help of music, the poetry and the history narrated by griots, those celebrations at the same time constitute a diversion and a memory of the social values bamana. The fact to dance during a celebration is for a boy the occasion to demonstrate its personal ability and to acquire a certain prestige. But before it will have to demonstrate his skill and to obtain from old the authorization to exhibit itself in public, who can to him be denied if his first performance is considered mediocre.
 
Bambara carves beautiful figures, less naturalists than their “maternities”, statuettes representing binoculars and locks of doors. Venerated and guarded in the sanctuary of the town or its borders, the ball-point pen is an object whose magical components are hidden in center of an amalgam of clay, precious wood, crust, roots, horns, jaws or metals. It can have human form or take the one from hipopótamo. A religious dignitary only can be handled by the head or; one feeds with blood and spilled beer to him on mijo in a tube that crosses it from a side to others. The complex symbolic system of bambara is reflected in an abundant production, related to the ritual functions, and has variable aesthetic qualities. social bamana. The fact to dance during a celebration is for a boy the occasion to demonstrate its personal ability and to acquire a certain prestige.
 
But before it will have to demonstrate his skill and to obtain from old the authorization to exhibit itself in public, who can to him be denied if his first performance is considered mediocre.




Other african ethnic groups available: BANTU , BAMBARA , ZULU , CHOKWE , BEREBER , FANG , MOSSI , BAMILEKE , DAN , DOGON , BAULE , SONGYE , SENUFO , KUBA , PENDE , SUKU , LUBA , GURO , BWA , BAMUN

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