The Sande Society and the Sowei Mask
Political, Educational, and Gender Aspects of the Women ‘s Society of the Mende
The Sowei mask of the Sande Society is a symbol for the Mende people of Sierra Leone stand foring the ideals of feminine beauty, but the Sande Society besides plays a cardinal function in the nurturing, support, and initiation of immature adult females into grownups. This mask defines a end for immature adult females every bit good as symbolizes their passage from kids to grownups and, the Sande are the tools behind the sowei which form and model the novices of their society into adult females capable of pull offing matrimony, political power, and even religious secrets.
The sowei mask itself is carved from wood carefully with close attending to detail. Each grade is made with a greater image in head and at the terminal of the procedure the mask will typify the Mende ‘s idealities of grace, beauty, and repose. After the carving, the mask is painted and polished to a black, calendered radiance. There are many sowei masks, all of which possess the black, calendered radiance, but each mask can differ in many countries. The sowei masks can possess axial rotations of fat on the cervix, scarification spiels on the face, luxuriant hairdos, raphia about neck, and many other qualities which give it the elegance that it possesses. ( Cosentino 17 ) The peculiar mask on show in the Stanley Collection has two little scarification forms in low alleviation on either cheek of the mask, a beautiful hairdo with a little bird perched on top. The mask is full of curves and the light gimmicks off the surface to stress the rebuff cuts made along the hair of the figure give it a life like quality which complements the repose of the mask ‘s look. Not merely does the mask represent outer beauty, but besides references the beauty of a adult female ‘s interior strength and character. ( Becker 82 )
The encircling ridges of a sowei mask which represent axial rotations of fat besides are portion of the beginning of the mask. When a Sande society member who is peculiarly celebrated for her stage dancing and dance accomplishment she is said to dream of plunging into a pool, which is the brooding topographic point for female liquors. As she rises from the H2O, the ripplings of the H2O on the surface signifier the rings around the base of the mask. The frequently complex and ever elegant hairdos of sowei masks are said to hold come from Sande functionaries falling into H2O and emerges with a beautiful hairdo. ( Textbook 180 )
In public presentation, the sowei is danced by the ndoli jowui alongside a 2nd mask, the gondei, which is the antithesis of the sowei. The gondei is sometimes a cast-off sowei mask which has been worn down or interrupt. Occasionally pieces of rubbish such as Sn tins or shells are attached to the gondei, farther dividing it from the sowei. It is merely when we see both masks that we separate the beauty and grace of the sowei farther from that of the grotesque and horrid signifier of the gondei. By holding the two masks juxtaposed, we can see the grace and elegance in which the sowei is danced in comparing with the ugly, faltering dance of the gondei. The public presentation itself occurs in the hebdomads before the public part of the Sande induction. When the sowei emerges from the shrub to dance, she is admired and greeted by the full town. ( Cosentino 16-7 ) When the novices themselves are present at the dance, they wear braclets of thenar foliage fibres and organic structure cyberspaces with little Fe home bases. Their faces are smeared with carnal fat giving them a more vernal visual aspect. ( Newland 125 )
To the Sande the sowei mask as a manifest of power from the spirit universe. It is for this ground that while the sowei mask is the built-in piece to convey the power needed to put the novices with everything they will necessitate to get married, the mask besides can look in other topographic points. Smaller versions can look on the staffs and other objects used by higher ranking members of the Sande and little figures besides are common. These objects represent the & A ; lsquo ; medical specialty ‘ of the Sande and their connexion with the liquors. ( Textbook 180 )
The Sande society itself is tremendous ; each small town normally has its ain Sande society governed by a council of seniors. ( Ellis 200 ) These seniors are non merely in charge of initation rites into the Sande society, and so into maturity, but besides the parturition, instruction, Circumcision, political facets, and religious facets of the novices underneath them. Once pubescence is reached, the novices are taken into the shrub and taught the things they need to cognize to go big adult females. Subjects such as sex, dancing, fishing, cookery, and secrete & A ; lsquo ; medical specialties ‘ are discussed and by and large a female circumcision, a female Circumcision, is performed. After the novices complete their preparation, they are eligible to get married and & A ; lsquo ; invested ‘ with birthrate ( Leach 58 ) , but are taught that green-eyed monster for one ‘s co-wives is greatly discouraged. Novices are besides called and described by sex-specific footings from the minute they graduate into full genderhood. Work force are forbidden from the Sande shrub merely as the adult females are from the Poro, the work forces ‘s secrete society, shrub. It is the duty of the Sande seniors to penalize any adult male who takes an novice from the shrub badly. The sowei ‘s & A ; lsquo ; medical specialty ‘ is feared and when a adult male is pointed out as holding broken a Sande jurisprudence there is a all right or some other punishment which an senior determines. ( Newland 125 ) Elder Sande functionaries are still susceptible to & A ; lsquo ; medical specialties ‘ which can impact their ability to present kids, circumcise the novices, and other undertakings which are cardinal to their place.
The Poro and Sande societies together govern Mende thoughts about gender and work forces and adult females ‘s lives. Both genders have gender-specific undertakings that are used to specify a individual ‘s maleness or muliebrity. Each group gives entree to specific male and female medical specialties and societal and political support. Both groups besides give seniors of the societies entree to a higher position place in the small towns. This position is known as a & A ; lsquo ; large adult male ‘ or & A ; lsquo ; large adult female ‘ . The rubric comes with the duty of caring for the political or fiscal aid of others. In Mende society both work forces and adult females can go a large individual or numu Washington. While the Sande will protect adult females from development, maltreatment, and give them political and societal support, the society besides produces dissymmetry. The high-level members normally gain their place from descent, and by commanding the of import cognition of the Sande, they are able to arouse trueness or even material goods from the novices and their households. In this manner, the Sande society acts as a driving force in socio-political constructions in what would otherwise be a male dominated society. With the polarized and parallel powers of the Poro and Sande societies, adult females are non considered inferior to work forces, they are merely considered & amp ; lsquo ; different ‘ . ( Leach 59-60 )
The Sande service as wise mans for immature misss going adult females, but they besides serve as friends and co-workers. Every adult female who is considered an grownup in Mende civilization has been initiated and graduated from the Sande society. The novices they graduate with become their societal system of support and the society leaders are at that place to protect them every bit good. It is in this manner that we see that all Mende adult females are connected.
In drumhead, the sowei mask demonstrates the inner and outer beauty of the perfect adult female, which every novice of the Sande society and therefore every adult female considered an grownup, strives to achieve. Not merely do the Sande Teach immature adult females about life, but besides supply them with a web of support for the remainder of their lives. In this manner, the sowei mask represents non merely the Sande, but all adult Mende adult females and their ineluctable connexion to each other.