Women's Art and Initiation in Mendeland

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

Sande officials at the "Pulling." Sierra Leone, April 1974. Photo by Henrietta Cosentino.


Half blind, in white garb, with her staff of office, Mama Kodjo, the most senior and venerable Sande Official, or Sande Wa Jowei, sits with a co-leader. Contemplating the final ceremonies, both look rather grave. People are talking of Mama No's absence due a woman's death in childbirth earlier that day. It is said the dead woman's husband will have to pay large fines to Sande. I am also told that certain rituals have had to be canceled. At the "Pulling," I note that every single pregnant woman in Mattru has donned protective amulets. Death has shadowed birth and clouded this ceremony for Sande's new brides and future mothers. It must be in the minds of the soweis as they oversee the event. (HC)