Lot 10
  • 10

Bamana Antelope Headdress (n'gonzon koun), Mali

60,000 - 90,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • wood, glass beads, cloth


George Stoecklin, France
Raymond E. Britt, Chicago, acquired from the above in May 1979
By descent through the family
Sotheby's, New York, November 11, 2005, lot 34, consigned by the above
Myron Kunin, Minneapolis, acquired at the above auction

Catalogue Note

According to LaGamma (2002: 109), "Headdresses in this style have [..] been designated by Zahan as 'horizontal' ci wara, the third of his three categories of Bamana headdresses.  He attributes this corpus to the Bélédougou region, which is north of the Niger River, but Imperato situates the style slightly farther south in the adjacent Djitoumou region. Imperato notes that some villages there sponsored performances of abstract vertical sogoni koun headdresses but also possessed horizontal ci wara, which they referred to as n'gonzon koun.  During the 1990s, this attribution was corroborated by Stephen Wooten, who documented performances of comparable works in a village approximately forty kilometers from Bamako.  Wooten emphasizes the ongoing vitality of dances in which works such as these are still performed to celebrate and even promote the success of a community's agricultural endeavors."

She continues (ibid: 110): "Headdresses of this kind are distinctive for their formal qualities as well as for their idiosyncratic construction.  All other related Bamana sculptural genres are monoxylic (carved from a single piece of wood), but these works are invariably carved as two separate units - the head and the body - which are subsequently joined together with iron staples, U-shaped nails, or metal or leather collars attached with nails [as seen in the present headdress].  Zahan proposes that because this bipartite approach was not the result of technical necessity, it reflects an underlying symbolic intention, perhaps related to the idea of unifying two separate elements into a coherent and balanced design."

The Kunin n'gonzon koun is one of a small number of examples which feature a standing human figure atop the head or horns of the antelope.  The chi wara masquerades in which such headdresses were used often emphasized male-female duality; the present example is notable in that while the figure is female, the antelope is male.