Monday, June 28, 2010

Su Gande

© by Chad Finer Su Gande carves Bundu masks - Kenema note: the masks have yet to be colored

Su Gande was known throughout the Kenema area for his carving. Years before I got to know him he had come from a small village near Panguma and had moved to Kenema where he lived simply. He had learned to carve on his own and in the area he created beautiful Bondo Mask carvings. I remember his first name as Bockarie but most people knew him as Su Gande. Soweis from all over the area - also known as women leaders of the Bundu - would come to Su Gande - and have him make masks for them. These helmet masks - wellknown to the Mende in our area - were worn as the covering to the raffia clothed Bondo Devil pictured in so many of my prior postings. He would return to the Panguma area to get wood for his masks and then spend weeks doing the carving. The wood was soft for a hard wood and easily carved. After carving he would use either black shoe polish or indigo dye to blacken the mask. Manytimes he would use so called "European" paint to finish them. At times he would embellish them with earrings. The hair was carved intricately, there was often a covering such as can be seen in this picture. Su Gande did his carvings on his back veranda of his house. Over the two years that I lived in the area he and I became good friends and on occasion we traveled to his small village which was a 26 mile walk from the end of the road where public transport would leave us. On one of these trips and while on the bush portion of the road - an overly officious soldier arrested me and had me detained in a small cell with about 10 other "cell-mates". I remember how very upset Su Gande was at this - but after several hours in this hot, crowded facility - the soldiers boss was heard to ask, "wetin do dat whiteman dey na cell," and when the soldier gave some lame response I was ordered released and we went on our way. Our delay meant that we had missed our transport back to Kenema and thus we sat by the side of the road for hours waiting fr the next tranpsort to pass by. I remember arriving back to Kenema late that night. [one of his finished masks can be seen in my March 30 posting]

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