Women's Art and Initiation in Mendeland

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

The mask Muma ("We Agree" or "Unity"), carved by Ado Dassama, dancing at Ngiyehun, Luawa, Kailahun, Sierra Leone. Photo by Ruth Phillips.

The performance of the ndoli jowei at times of celebration is an important highlight of the occasion and the result of the creativity and artistry of patron, carver, dancer, and musicians. Mende recognize and relish the individuality of each masquerade Although all ndoli joweisia belong to a single category of spirit being associated with the blackness of water and the many rivers that flow through Mendeland, they are also regarded as individual spirits. Each has a personal name by which she is known. Many names commemorate a male relative, whose generosity helped Sande officials to acquire the mask, or articulate a central value taught by the society, such as family unity. (RP)


Sierra Leone; Mende peoples. Women's Initiation. Video by Ruth Phillips.