In Mali it is men who work iron and precious metals. Their age-old
mastery of metal has earned them an honored place in Mali's history.
They forge tools for farming, fishing, and hunting and fashion exquisite
gold and silver jewelry. Some smiths also specialize in woodcarving
and sculpt masks and statues, such as the ci wara antelope mask/headdresses,
that are part of Mali's rich artistic heritage.
Specific families within Mali's ethnic groups possess the knowledge
of metal technology. These families have protected this heritage
for hundreds of years and generally marry within blacksmith families.
Today, some smiths work in the modern metalworking industry or
in metal recycling, which is an important part of the local economy.
In recent years, a small number of non-smiths as well have begun
to work in metal-related industries and to participate in metal
recycling. The advent of art schools has also opened the door for
non-smiths, both men and women, to become fine arts sculptors in
Visit the National
Museum of Natural History African
exhibition and the National
Museum of African Art to see examples of sculpture, jewelry,