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                  MENDE - BUNDU - SOWEI HELMET MASK .

The Mende culture is primarily found in Sierra Leone, Liberia, western Guinea and Mali.
Secret societies among the Mende are called Poro, which means "laws of ancestor
spirits, thereby imparting power to the Poro from ancestor spirits.  The Poro duties
include settling disputes, controlling fishing and harvesting, and regulating the economy
and trading. Other societies within the Mende are responsible for military training,
agricultural fertility, general education, sexual conduct, and medical and social services.
The Mende women belong to a secret  society  called Sande which is primarily  
responsible for  training young girls for the adult roles they will soon encounter. Mende
girls are instructed in child care, homemaking, sexual matters abed the proper attitude
towards husbands and authority. Mende boys are  instructed in road maintenance,
clearing land for agriculture, bridge and trap making, basketry and weaving, traditional
law and custom, and the art of enduring hardship and pain. Secret  societies dominate
the lives of traditional West Africans and serve to establish social, political, economic,
and artistic rules that solidify and unite the culture

The Sande society uses the word ''Sowei'' to represent the personification of the
society's spirit, medicine, and the most  important masked dancer. The Sowei is present
at initiation school, brings male offenders to justice, and is the chief mourner at funerals
foe Sande officials. Sowei mask are kept in special
enclosures called Kende where the
mask attendant keeps medicine ans masks.
        MENDE - BUNDU - SOWEI HELMET MASK ( Sierra Leone )
                                        Mid 20th century.