As with other tribes of Africa, the Temne are
regulated by secret societies who oversee
political life and initiation rites. Both men and
women are involved in the complex procedures
and ceremonies related to the coming of age.
Young male initiates are under the guidance of
the poro society, whose adult members take
them from the village for several months or even
years until they have reached a level of maturity.
Girls are under the guidance of the Sande
society, which helps prepare them for marriage.
During initiation, the young girls wear a helmet
mask known as a bundu, representing the
ancestors presiding over the initiates.
This spectacular mask is of that type, and is
certainly monumental in its presence. The four
faces around the central portion are similar in
appearance, each with eyes closed as if in
meditation. Two of them have color only on the
lips; while the other two are marked with brilliant
rose-red around the chin or down the center of
the forehead. These may be ancestral figures,
who are often grouped in pairs. The figure on top
is riding on the crest, holding onto the elaborate
hairdo with supreme confidence as if he is in
complete command. He wears a peaked
headdress which may indicate a high position in
society, or a variety of helmet-masks worn
during initiation. The power of this headdress
elevates it to a true sculpture, in which we can
see an interplay between the human and other
worldly forces that is both beautiful and