Bundu masks, created in the 19th and 20th centuries in Sierra Leone, were crafted by men, but worn by women during Sande Society initiation masquerades. These masks represent the importance of women in Mende society, as well as the emphasis on adhering to the ideal of a young woman.
Bundu, Society is a fellowship of women who are responsible for preparing young Mende girls for adulthood, and for their roles as wives, mothers, and female community members. The mask itself is a conical helmet that rests on top of the raffia costume, and is described by observers as "truly a glamorous being...the mask joins the community together in the experience of its beauty and allure.
Culture and Traditions
The Mende and neighboring peoples of Sierra Leone and Liberia are unique in Africa in that women actually wear masks and costumes that conceal them totally from the audience in attendance on the occasion of their performance. Both societies are associated with the initiation, education, and acculturation of female and male youth, respectively, into productive adulthood. Women leaders who dance these masks serve as priestesses and judges during the three years the women’s society controls the ritual calendar (alternating with the men’s society in this role).
Mr. Kenneth T. Ward donated in the year 1991.
Date of Digitization
J. B . Coleman Library
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Prairie View A&M University, "MENDE Culture of Arts from Sierra Leone and Liberia are unique in Africa- (Bundi Mask)" (2022). African Sculptures and Masks. 16.