What does this mask tell you about the personal identity of its
wearer? Do you think it is considered more important for a Mende
woman to fit into her cultural role or to be a unique individual?
What kinds of initiation ceremonies are a part of your own culture?
In what ways are they similar to the Sande Society initiation? In
what ways do they differ? In what way are initiations part of growing
LANGUAGE ARTS ACTIVITY
Ideas of Womanhood: Representing the Ideal
This mask represents qualities an ideal woman should have in the
Mende culture and helps communicate these values to young girls.
Are these same traits considered ideal in all cultures? What qualities
of womanhood does American society value? How are these values communicated?
Do a drawing or collage that expresses your ideal of womanhood.
Lessons in Life
* Read A Walk to the Jetty , a short story by Jamaica Kinkaid.
How will you know when you have reached adulthood? What kinds of skills
will you need? What experiences or events help you become an adult?
Recall an experience that caused you to change or grow in some way.
Write an essay about your experience. Did you learn any important
lessons, which might help you as an adult?
Praise poems are a tradition in many West African countries. Praise
poems raise someone to a place of honor by making the community aware
of the person's accomplishments. Praise poems usually include:
- a person's family
- a person's physical or social abilities, including those of
- many references to nature
Write a praise poem commemorating something you or someone close
to you have accomplished. Start by describing the accomplishment.
Note how you felt on that day, what you looked like, and a relative
or friend who may have helped you. Examples of praise poems can
be found in Leaf and Bone, by Judith Gleason, New York:
Viking Press. 1980.
A Survey About Adulthood
What does it mean to be an adult in America? Ask your classmates what
they think. Consider:
- Who will you survey? How will you decide whom to survey?
- How many people will you survey?
- What questions will you ask? How will you ask them?
You may want to give people several statements and ask them whether
they agree or disagree. Chart responses on a graph.
SOCIAL STUDIES ACTIVITY
What roles do women play in Mende society? Compare the importance
of women in Mende society to other West African cultures. How are
the women's roles different from those of other West African cultures?
Initiation Throughout the World
Initiation ceremonies into society exist in many cultures. Choose
four different world cultures and research their initiation practices.
(Margaret Mead's Growing up in New Guinea, for example, portrays
the initiation rites of adolescent males and females in New Guinea)
What do these ceremonies have in common? In what ways do they differ?
What can you tell about the values of each culture by studying its