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Dyonyeni ceremonial figure
The Bambara, numbering 1.5 to 2.5 million, are the largest ethnic group within Mali. The triangle of the Bambara region, divided in two parts by the Niger River, constitutes the greater part of the western and southern Mali of today. The dry savanna permits no more than a subsistence economy, and the soil produces, with some difficulty, corn, millet, sorghum, rice, and beans. Their traditions include six male societies. The Bambara believe in existence of spiritual forces, which are activated by individuals who are capable of creating an atmosphere of harmony. For the most part, Bambara society is structured around six male societies. The Bambara maintain many of their ancient religious rites. The dyonyeni female figures, which often do not have eyes, are thought to be associated with either the Dyo or the Kwore society. The blacksmith members of the Dyo society use them during dances to celebrate the end of their initiation ceremonies. They were handled, held by dancers and placed in the middle of the ceremonial circle. The figures usually have geometrical features such as large conical breasts.