The ceremonies of the Sande society are the only occasions in Africa in which women customarily wear wooden masks. Masks like this one represent the society's guardian spirit at public events such as funerals or the installations of chiefs.
The features of the mask illustrate the group's ideal of feminine beauty, with a broad, high forehead, small narrow eyes, and an elaborate coiffure. The elegant hairstyles also symbolize the importance of social cooperation, since a woman needs the help of her friends to dress her hair.
In Sierra Leone and western Liberia, each town has a Sande society that includes all of the women in the community. It represents them and binds them together as a powerful social and political force. The Sande society is one of the most influential patrons of the visual arts in West Africa. (Brooklyn Museum)
- James Bernard Byrnes, the first curator of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA (1946-1952)
- Eric Nonnecke, Ames, IA, USA
- d’Azevedo, W. L., 1973, Mask, Makers and Myth in Western Liberia, Oxford: Oxford University Press - Boone, S. A., 1986, Radiance from the Waters: Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende Art. New Haven and London: Yale University Press - Phillips, R. B., 1995, Representing Woman: Sande Masquerades of the Mende of Sierra Leone. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History