Women's Art and Initiation in Mendeland

by Ruth Phillips, Henrietta Cosentino and Rebecca Busselle
(R.P.) Carleton University

During the 1970s, a number of North Americans had the opportunity to live among Mende people as Peace Corps workers and graduate student researchers. Henrietta Cosentino lived in the village of Mattru for a year with her husband and two small children. The girls being initiated into Sande that year, like the Sande teachers and leaders, were her friends and neighbors. The photographs they invited her to take permit a greater understanding of the way girls experience initiation into Sande. Rebecca Busselle, a professional photographer, lived nearby in Bo, the largest town in Mendeland. She was particularly interested in the strong visual language with which Sande expresses its transformation of the female body from girl into woman. Her photographs offer images of this process with the unique insight of the photographer's eye. (RP)