Peoples & Societies


The Mende are rice farmers who migrated to Sierra Leone from various African territories in the 16th century and number about two million today. Within Mende chiefdoms, boys and girls are initiated into secret societies and remain members for life. These secret societies, Poro for males and Sande for females, serve as educational institutions that impart and preserve Mende morals and customs. Artworks, especially wooden masks, are created for initiation and healing ceremonies. The masquerade for the Sande society provides a rare instance of African women as maskers.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 303.

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