Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Bondo at Foindu in Nongowa Chiefdom

© by Chad Finer

above: The Bondo Devil and attendants walked around a central orange tree before seetling on the veranda of Mama Hokey's home in Foindu. In this photo Mama Massa (in white) leads out as Elizabeth Garlough (carrying white packing on her head) follows with the Bondu Devil. Mama Hokey - leader of the area Bondo - can be seen in the back of the procession. She is tall and behind a few others. Notice oranges hanging in the foreground. And in the background on the house window shutter is a political advertisement for B.S. Massaquoi who was a prominent political figure in Kenema area. He had been a minister of parliament - a Kenema District Coucil member - and was a modern thinking man with interests in farming and coffee plantations when I knew him. He was killed during the recent civil war.

© by Chad Finer

Foindu was about 6 miles walk from our house and was Mama Hokey's village. Although she had a home across from us on Dama Rd she spent a good portion of her time in Foindu. Mama Hokey was quite modest (if not secretive) about her position in the Bondo Society in our area but my impression was that she was the leader (Sowei). Clearly, where ever she went she commanded respect. She was afraid of no-one. Tall, and ouspoken, Mama Hokey befriended us early in our Kenema days and saw to it that we were kept informed about activities in the area. As I remember it - she had spent some of her life in Freetown and I think she had a son who at that time was studying (or living) in the UK. From time to time she would have wonderful singing on her veranda of traditional Bondu songs many times led by a person we knew as Bonya, and sometimes led by Mama Hokey. One song that I epsecially remember (and liked) was "Eh Bondo Nyamungo" (oh how difficult is the Bondo?) a wonderous song with the most eery and beautiful harmony. I think it described just how difficult Bondo life and training was and certainloy relected the general life of women in the area. A very beautiful Mende song - Mama Hokey would frequently lead out with women who might be on the veranda singing their responses to each lead. I would sit on the veranda listening - it would be late evening - perhaps a moon to give us some light - we would all be crowded on the veranda - maybe 10 or 15 of us - listening to, or singing these very beautiful traditional songs. Sung in Mende - most of what was sung was hard for me to fully understand - but I did my best.
Foindu was a very typical Mende village consisting of 10 or 15 houses, a central "barrie", a small mosque, and around the village was farmland (mainly upland rice growing). It was a pleasant village to visit and Susan and I came here often. In the above photo Susan sits on the vernada,Mama Hokey is the tall woman to her right with the dotted docket (blouse). In this picture is also Bonya (just her head is seen looking to the left - she is in the back), and on the far right in the orange headdress is Moiyatu. This was taken in either 1969 or 1970. [Mama Hokey died in the last year. I was informed of this by Susan Banya-Legg]

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