Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bondo Girl at Bitema (Nongowa)

This very serious Bondo Girl was the only initiate from the village of Bitema in 1969. In this photo the Bondo Spirit (aka Devil) seems to be protective of this young initiate as she sits for the photo. Village women look on in the background. The Bondo Devil was a women's society icon very typical of the Mende Secret Women's Society. The Helmet mask seen here and typical of this devil was always beautifully carved and then dyed black. The devils "clothes" were made of indigo dyed raffia from the raffia palm tree. I took a series of pictures (also posted elsewhere) of this young girl. She is wearing the typical dress of one stage of Bondo initiation. In those days Bondo initiation upcountry was still a serious business. It was my observation that a young country woman was not considered for proper marriage until she had been through Bondo training. This was perhaps not true of young women brought up in the Christian tradition. My observations in this regard were that the Christian religion tended to frown on some of these native traditions, which sometimes led to young women joining the Bondo Society in secret or even denying that they had been initiated. There were certainly some young women who were not members of the Bondo Society but the more country tradition of joining the Bondo was still strong. The Bondo taught homemaking, childcare, cooking, responsibility, music (singing), and community. The training could take long - sometimes 3 months in some areas - and when over a young girl would be considered eligible for marriage. The training was done in the "Bondo Bush" an area set aside only for the young girls to be trained and usually proximate but seperate from the village. Whether education and religion had a negative impact on the Bondo I can not comment, but certainly Bondo thrived in the area we lived in, in the late 1960's.

No comments: