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

New Sande initiates at an ndahiti celebration on the outskirts of Bo, Yambama, Sierra Leone. Photo by Rebecca Busselle.

Photographers are often attracted to making visible the very qualities that are most difficult to render: for me, one of Sande's deep fascinations was its continual sense of the mysterious. The mystery was nothing I could see, yet it was always in the atmosphere, like fine particles of red dust hovering during the dry season. My minimal Mende language skills no doubt created some of the enigmas, but the nature of the society itself generated most. While women would try to answer my direct questions, explanations of a ceremony were often confusing. I felt they didn't want me to understand. (RB)