Friday, March 27, 2009

Bondo Girls

double click on images to enlarge

The 3 photos above were taken in the village of Bitema Nongowa at the time of year when the Bondo Society (the women's society) was active. This young Bondo girl probably was about 12 or 13 years old. This shows one stage of her initiation when her skin was covered with a fine white clay and she was being shown in the village after coming out of the Bondo bush. Next to her is the very fine Bondo Devil (or spirit). In Mende country the symbol of the Women's Bondo Society was this spirit made of a wonderfully carved wooden helmet mask which highlighted (if not accentuated) many of the traits that were felt to represent beauty and perfection. The spirit's clothes were made of indigo dyed raffia obtained from the raffia palm so abundant in the area. The Bondo Society was responsible for training young women. In those days it was their training that was necessary before a women could marry - this was perhaps more true upcountry than in the big cities. In some villages many young woman would "come out," at once. The small village of Bitema only had this young woman in 1969. I did not know her name.

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