Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Group of Bondo Women with the Bondo Devil - 1969

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This photo was taken in the small village of Bitema - a village of a few houses which sat to our south on Dama Road. This village was in Nongowa Chiefdom. The woman directly to the Devil's left was someone who seemed to have as her responsibility the attending to the needs of the devil. I met her in a number of similar gatherings elsewhere. She had a pleasant smile but little interaction with the public - this may have been my perception as she did not speak either Krio or English - and unfortunately my ability to converse in Mende was limited. But from observing her, it was clear that she was the Devil's attendant, helping to guide the devil when it was out and about. The other women came from Bitema, and asked to be in this picture when I pulled my camera out of the bag. Bitema sat on the edge of Dama Road several miles from where we lived. I believe in this year (1969) there was one initiate (I have pictured her on other postings). It was the Bondo Society that was the women's secret society in upcountry Sierra Leone. Initiates were taught cooking, household chores, crafts, and also songs. A woman was not considered marriageable until she had gone through Bondo training. Although change was in the air by 1969 - it was my observation that this remained a very important aspect of upcountry Mende life in those days. This photo can be enlarged by clicking on it

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