Women's Art and Initiation in Mendeland

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

Graduate reclining in state after their "Pulling." Sierra Leone, April 1974. Photo by Henrietta Cosentino.


It's later the same afternoon. For more than an hour, the girls sit enthroned, fanned by attendants, clutching their purses and gazing into glass as into another world-still seemingly under the spell of the hale. To their left, just off-camera, the Sande spirits sit the same way, propped against pillows, draped with cloth, models of cool countenance. But it is the "brides of Sande" who rivet me, with their teased hair, Western dresses and finery, in curious contrast to the locally woven cloth. Manjia and her sister brides are queens for a day; but they do not show enjoyment. Manila and the others have changed so much since their first debut a month ago at nda hiti. Then they looked fresh as new-hatched butterflies. Often, in the month that followed, we would see them in their beaded, bare-torsoed loveliness, heading down the railway track, bound for Bo and a shopping spree. Now they sit stiffly in Western garb, hearts masked, forbiddingly adult. I wonder what they feel. (HC)