Year 5 Visual Arts

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Dancing Antelopes

chiwara headdress

Long ago, many African people did not write down their histories. They remembered things from the past by singing songs, dancing, acting and telling stories – and by making works of art.

In Mali, a group of people called the Bamana [bah-MAH-nah] believed that, long ago, a special being called Chiwara [chee-WAH-rah] used magical powers to teach the people to farm. To remember their ancestors and to honour the powers of Chiwara, Bamana artists carved tall wooden figures shaped like antelopes, designed to be worn on top of the head. During planting and harvest festivals, young men hid their bodies under costumes made of fibre, wore these tall headdresses and performed a dance like leaping antelopes. The dance told the story of Chiwara.

Make your own Chiwara headdress

chiwara headdress

Bamana artists didn’t try to make their sculptures look exactly like real antelopes. Instead, they suggested the shape of the antelope’s body with big, bold curves. Look at these two photos of different antelopes. Using these pictures and the examples of Chiwara masks that you have seen here, get some ideas for your own Chiwara mask.

Construct the legs, body, head and of course the antlers of your antelope using different pipecleaners. Once you have made the figure of your antelope, make the base separately – this will be the bottom part of your headdress that will sit on the top of your head. Take a few pipecleaners and wrap them around each other to form a circular base and then wrap the legs or feet of your antelope around the circular base to connect them. How do you like your headdress?

This activity is adapted from pages 162-163 of What Your Year 5 Child Needs to Know.

Click below to see a related activity.

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