2009 Student Research Conference:
22nd Annual Student Research Conference

Mask and Masquerade: Women's Music in Mende Life and Ritual
Jennifer L. Thomas
Prof. Shirley McKamie, Faculty Mentor

The masquerade puberty-initiation ceremonies found in coastal West Africa are unique in that they are the only known rituals in the entirety of Africa in which women wear masks. This particular ritual is the culmination of intense music and dance training by which adolescent girls are initiated into womanhood, as well as into the Sande society: an organization inclusive of all women who undergo this ritual, thus, all Mende women. By examining the traditional role of women's song for the Mende people of Sierra Leone, it is possible to gain insight into the interrelationship of music and gender dynamics for this West African people. This presentation will focus primarily on the music-making activities that pertain to Mende women's puberty-initiation rituals.

Keywords: Mende, Sande, women's music, puberty-initiation ritual, dance, Sierra Leone, adolescence, ceremony

African Studies

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 48-2
Location: OP 2111
Time: 3:00

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