The great and mighty Mali empire of Africa represents one of the earliest expressions of human civilization and within this Ancient culture lies the origin of the legend of Chiwara (pronounced Kee-Waa-Ra)
According to the saga, Chiwara was half man, half antelope and the first being to teach mankind (The Bambara people of Mali) the self-sustaining techniques of agriculture or the ability to “feed oneself”. One of the four pillars of civilization (i.e. food, clothing, shelter and protection).
According to Bambaralegend, Chiwara used his antlers and pointed stick to dig into the earth, making it possible for humans tocultivatethe land. Humans watched Chiwara and then tilled their own soil. Chiwara used his hoofs to cover the seeds, and humans, observing closely, became experts at planting seeds. The Bambara farms became so bountiful that they had too much corn for their own use. They wasted it, thinking that it was easy to cultivate. Chiwara grew disappointed and buried himself in the earth. Never to be seen again.
This disturbed the elders of the Bambara, who regretted that they had lost him. They then ordered that a mask be made in memory of Chiwara, to honour him for teaching them how to farm the land.
Many elaborate headdresses have been created in his honour.
The Chiwara mask is held for the persons who are the best and fastest workers of the land, and so it is passed from one person to another depending on skill and expertise. It is a high honour to be able to wear the mask and dance the ceremonial Chiwara dance. The dance, representing both male and female genders,commemoratesChiwara with the dancers wearing beautifully carved headdresses representing antelopes. The dancers leap and turn, moving their heads and feet like the antelope, their movements grounded in hundreds of years of tradition. The dance, which suggests fertility, reproduction, propitiation of the spirits and ancestors, and gratitude to Chiwara, carries with itmoral lessons andreligious symbolism.
The chiwara tradition remains one of the most widely recognized forms in all of African art.
We, at HM-CCC want to carry on this ancient tradition by re-introducing the image of “Chiwara” into society through our clothing and other various cultural items.
Seeing Chiwara conjures the spirit of gratitude, unity and most of all, prosperity. Qualities that are needed more than ever in our lives today……….