The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Women's Art and Initiation in Mendeland

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

Lucinda, Sierra Leone. Photo by Rebecca Busselle.


Four months later, Lucinda appeared in our compound, adorned in braided ropes of yellow beads that bisected her torso from shoulder to waist, gleaming golden against her mahogany skin. A towel girdled her hips, lush and regal as ermine-trimmed velvet. I knew nothing of Sande initiation then, only that this beautiful, dignified woman had undergone a transformation from childhood to splendid maturity in a very short time. She had come for a photograph, and it was not to be the haphazard, caught moment of our first encounter, but a stately portrait. I dropped to one knee and photographed her as one does great sculpture, from below, with the palm tree fanned behind her like ostrich plumes, a sure sign of exalted position. (RB)