Sande Society Mask
ArtistMende (Sierra Leonean)
DateEarly-mid 20th century
Dimensions: 6 3/4 x 8 1/4 in. (17.15 x 20.96 cm)
Credit LineHope College Collection
The Mende are a farming and hunting people who live primarily in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The Sande Society is an initiation society that helps young women transition into adulthood. Female elders take young women on retreats into the bush where they teach the moral values and practical behaviors that are essential to function as an adult in Mende society. This mask would have been worn by a woman during the Sande Society initiation rites and conveys Mende ideals of womanhood. The bird on top of the mask represents the woman’s intuitive powers while the high forehead represents her sharp, contemplative mind. The downcast eyes and small mouth represent her sense of modesty, while the elaborate hairstyle and neck rolls reflect Mende ideals of beauty and good health.