Women's Art and Initiation in Mendeland

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

Four ndoli joweisia and a gonde masker at an ndahiti dance at Bandajuma Kovegbuami, Small Bo, Kenema, Sierra Leone. Photo by Ruth Phillips.

The initiates show off their new accomplishments and the physical beauty they are gaining through the special nourishment and guidance in comportment and grooming they receive as initiates, when they first reenter the village several weeks after the start of initiation. The occasion (nda hiti, "they are ready") is a time of celebration. The girls perform the new dances and songs they have learned, dressed in the distinctive beads and wrappers of initiates, their skin rubbed with the white clay that is the sign they are under the protection of the Sande medicine and must not be sexually molested by men. The ndoli joweisia entertain, together with other male entertainment maskers, and the masquerade performances add tremendously to the enjoyment of the occasion. (RP)