Mende People

Sande Society



color symbolism


body mutations


Poro Society



    A woman's hair is a sign of femininity.  Both thickness and length are elements that are admired by the Mende.  Thickness means the woman has more individual strands of hair and the length is proof of strength.  It takes time, care and patience to grow a beautiful, full head of hair.  Ideas about hair root women to nature, the way hair grows is compared to the way forests grow.   The vegetation on earth is the "hair" on the head of Mother Nature in the same way the hair on the head of a woman is her "foliage." (Boone)  A woman with long, thick hair illustrates a life force, she may be blessed with a green thumb giving her the ability to have a promising farm and many healthy children.
    Hairstyles are very important in Mende society.  A Sande woman's hair must be well groomed, clean, and oiled.  Hair must be tied down under strict control and shaped into intricate, elegant styles for the sake of beauty and sex appeal.  Dirty, disheveled hair is a sign of insanity.  A woman who does not groom and maintain her hair has neglected the communities standards of behavior. Only a woman in mourning can let her hair loose.  The Sande finds unarranged "wild" hair immoral and connects  it to wild behavior.  Ngufulo is a Sande term meaning "unplaited hair," the extended term Ngufulo-mo means "a woman of loose morals." (Boone)



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Radiance From the Waters Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende Art, Sylvia Ardyn Boone, Page 185