Product Description

BAMANA – Burkino Faso
Carved wood with textile

Circa 1930
32 x 10 x 24cm

The Bamana are among the most powerful and influential groups in Mali. They are also the largest ethnic group in the country. The Bambara live in the middle valley of the Niger River. They speak Bamana, which is one of the Manding languages.

During the 1700s, there were two Bambara kingdoms: Segu and Karta. In the 1800s, militant Muslim groups overthrew these kingdoms, leaving only a few anti-Muslim Bambara warlords to resist their occupation. This lasted forty years, until the arrival of the French. A very small number of the Bambara had converted to Islam by 1912.  After World War II, the number of Muslim converts grew due to their resistance to the French and their exposure to Muslim merchants. Today, the Bambara are mostly Muslim.

Bamana traditions include six male societies, each with its own type of mask. Initiation for men lasts for seven years and ends with their symbolic death and their rebirth. Nearly every Bambara man had to pass through these societies in succession, until, upon reaching the highest rank, he had acquired a comprehensive knowledge of ancestral traditions.