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Temne and Bullom name for a women' society that exists to prepare and educate girls for their responsibilities and tasks as adult women. Its Mende equivalent is Sande. In the past all girls approaching puberty were initiated into Bondo and had to spend a lengthy period, perhaps even several years, separated from their families in seclusion in the society '', a clearing in the forest near the village, under the guidance of mature women who acted as their instructors and models. Today the period of initiation is often drastically reduced to a few weeks to fit in with school holidays. The return of the initiates to the village at the close of their initiation is an occasion for public rejoicing and family pride. Clitorodectomy, in at least some modified form, forms an essential part of the Bondo (or Sande) initiation. Bondo is not a centralised institution, but takes the form of numerous more or less independent local lodges with common practices and traditions. In Temne Bondo higher-ranking members are known as digba. The most striking public manifestation of Bondo is the mask called a-Nowo, a black-dyed wooden helmet mask worn with a costume of black raffia and cloth. [Among the Mende the mask is known as sowei and the masker as the ndoli jowei or ' sowei'.] The mask is an idealised image of female beauty and dignity.

  • F.J.Lamp, ', cosmetics and the spirit of Bondo', African Arts, 1985, 18/3, 28-43. [One of the few accounts to focus on the Temne version of the women' society.]
  • S.A.Boone, Radiance from the Waters (New Haven/London 1986)
  • R.B.Phillips, Representing Woman (Los Angeles 1995)
  • [Both Boone and Phillips deal with the Mende Sande society.]
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