Sande Hierarchy




Mende People

Sande Society



color symbolism


body mutations


Poro Society




The Sande society is organized by a hierarchy of positions. The sowie are the highest ranking leaders of the group.  It is their job to model to the Mende women the utmost of Mende social values.  It is also their duty to enforce proper social relationships and to remove anything that might be harmful to the women in their community.  The sowie have control over certain sacred knowledge that is essential to the development of success and happiness in an individual and also to the well being of the community. They are the experts of the Sande women and have access to spirit ancestors and forces of nature.   The rank below sowie is ligba.  There are two grades within ligba; Ligba Wa (senior) and Ligba Wulo (junior).  In any group there is only one Ligba Wa, she is an executive officer in Sande.  Before a woman can take a leadership role in artistic activities she must be eligible at least as a Ligba Wulo.  An ordinary member is refered to as nyaha.  The word indicates that the Sande initiation makes a woman of a child, and every woman into a wife.  An initiate in training is called mbogdoni.  A non-member is kpowa.  As  a noun kpowa means "an ignoramus, a dummy,a fool"  as a verb it means "to become insane or deranged." (Boone)

next page
Sowo Mask