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Bamana Puppet Merenkun Head Mali African Art

Product #: 87603
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Title Bamana Puppet Merenkun Head Mali African Art
Type of Object Puppet / marionette
Country of Origin Mali
People Bamana
Materials Wood, pigment, copper alloy ,
Approximate Age mid 20th Century
Dimensions 25 inches H. x 7 inches W. x 7.5 inches D
Overall Condition Fair to Good
Damage/Repair General wear, scracks in head, i hairstyle, and in base, chips

Additional Information:  A  dance accessory carried by an elder during "Guan" festivals. It is sometimes known as a Merenkun. In Bamana language Merenkun served as a puppet used for the dances organized during the initiation rites . Among the Bamana people of Mali, puppets appear in villages on stages, where they represent various typecast characters living in the village and that we have all experienced. The puppets known as Merenkun will satirize social and personal behavior of the braggart, the loose woman, the miser and the foreigner.

The puppets often have arms or movable parts and will be covered in clothing and will be accompanied by songs that paraphrase the movements of the puppets as they make social comments upon the excessive behavior of their subjects. They often have two faces, Janus –like, that can be rotated and will represent different characters.

The artistic diversity of the Bamana is without doubt one of the most astounding, and confounding, of all West African groups. It is interesting that perhaps their closest rivals in complexity are their neighbors to the north and east, the Dogon, with whom they share certain stylistic similarities. Complex religious, funerary, initiation, and agricultural rites have resulted in an enormous pantheon of ritual objects. When collectors think of Bamana, the image of a "chi wara" often leaps to mind, the well-known are the "ntomo" masks, with their numerous vertical projections on the top of the head, the "boli" zoomorphic figures, bizarre creations which begin with small wooden carvings and are "built-up" over time by liberal applications of dirt, which has been mixed with animal blood, alcoholic drinks and other substances.

The Bamana people live in Central Mali, They are of Mandinke origin and today are the largest culture in Mali. The zenith of Bamana culture occurred during the late 18th century during the reign of N'golo Diara, who conquered the Peul tribe and occupied the important cities of Timbuktu and Djenne. They remained powerful until conquered by the French in 1892. Recently, like many African cultures, they have been affected by Islamic settlers from the east. Though they still consider themselves animists, many villagers now practice a hybrid combination of both "religions." This has allowed these competing cultures to coexist peacefully.



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I have examined this piece and agree with the description.
Niangi Batulukisi, Ph.D.