The Sande Mask

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TheSande Mask

TheSande mask is a distinct art created and controlled by the Mendewomen in Sierra Leon. This is particularly so because the maskingtype of art was a reserve of the men individuals in the Africansocieties. However the Sande mask played a central role in thesocial, educational and ethical lives of the women who belonged tothe Sande community. This paper will bring into light all the formalelements of the Sande mask, its traditional meaning and symbolism.This paper will further communicate the societal issues that areidentified with the Sande mask.

Sandemask was a form of artwork that was crafted by the Mende women bySierra Leon, who belonged to a secret society known as the SandeSociety. The Sande mask was typically made from a single light woodblock and was divided into three main structural elements. Thesethree parts are the neck, the coiffure and the face (Lecture Notes31). Naturally the forefront of the mask is extended and mostly broadto an extent of diminishing the facial features of the chin. Inaddition the eyes that are located at the forefront are set in adowncast manner almost to appear as if closed. The surface of theforefront is shiny and black almost appearing wet. The most prominentfeature of the mask is the crafted and carefully designed long hairthat appears to be untidy and messy (Lecture Notes 33).

TheSande mask is usually defined to be black and wet, a prominentfeature that is achieved from carefully rubbed with palm oil or shoepolish. This activity is aimed at making the surface to be shiny andalmost appear wet. This is an important cultural representation ofthe Sande society as the ultimate Knowledge that can only be achievedfrom the bushes or the rivers (Lecture Notes 34). This knowledge wasparticularly important in the initiation of the Sande girls intoadulthood. The Sande society had a cultural belief in nature spirit.In this regard the river spirit was symbolized by the shiny darksurface of the Sande mask. Another important attribute that the shinydark surface represented was the values that was placed by the Sandewomen to a skin that was dark and smooth (McClusky 200).

Inaddition the Sande mask had Vivi Vivi strands of plaited hair(McClusky 201). This hair was typically messy and untidy a culturalrepresentation of insanity. This was particularly important to thegirls who were turned into adulthood as it symbolized the abandonmentof standard community behavior. It was highly important for theinitiated girls to transform the way they had formerly behaved. Inthis regard the girls were required to embrace responsible behaviorthat was a requisite for a young woman who was ready for marriage andall that came with adulthood. There are a lot of decorations in thecouture that is achieved by tight colorful beads together withcomplex design of the braids (McClusky 204). It was regarded thatduring the period of initiation the girls would be taught how todesign such complex hair styles that was a secret skill reserved forthe Sande women society.

Inconclusion, the Sande Mask belonged to the Mende traditions ofinitiation cycles. The masks were a reserve for the women duringtheir initiation cycle into adulthood which was a typical tradition.


Lecture10-19, 2015, Lecture 10-19 SandeArts of Womanhood.Class Notes, 2015 Person Education Inc. 18/12/2015

McClusky,Pamela.Art from Africa.Seattle. Princeton University Press. 2002. Print

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