Hunter Shirt

In Mali some married men are hunters. Malinke hunters spend their working life in the bush - the domain of wild animals and spirits. In order to be able to operate successfully in this hostile environment, the hunter must be able to manipulate the supernatural forces of the bush

There are various ways to control the forces in the bush. First, the hunter learns about the plants and animals in the wild - he can use this knowledge to be a healer as well as a hunter. Second, he uses his vital life force, which is called nyama. The Malinke believe that all living beings have varying degrees of nyama and that nyama can survive death. For example, an animal's nyama can bring famine, sickness, or death to the hunter who kills it. So the hunter tries to increase his own nyama and to protect himself from the animals he kills.
One of the ways the hunter can control nyama is by wearing a power shirt like this one. We can tell by the many strips of leather, canine teeth, and animal claws and bones on this shirt, that the hunter has gathered a great deal of nyama. These animal remains probably come from the animals that the hunter has killed. The shirt acts as a double skin, protecting the hunter through the power of the objects on it.

Try making your own Hunter's Shirt and learn more about the protection and good fortune that the amulets bring!


© Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University,
Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and Dallas Museum of Art
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