The Sande Society of the Mende people of Sierra Leone is a secret female regulatory society that both guards and transmits the ideals of feminine beauty so fundamental to the aesthetic criteria in Mende culture. In this eloquent and moving book, Sylvia Ardyn Boone describes the Society, its rituals and organization, and the mask worn by its members. Her book is an evocative account of Mende life and philosophy as well as a unique contribution to the study of African art, one based on African conceptions about the person and the human body.
"This is a beautiful and beautifully written book. … Boone writes in ways that reveal her evident devotion to Mende culture."―John Picton, African Affairs
"A major contribution to our ethnographic understanding of Mende culture, and to understanding the way concepts of women’s bodies encode cultural messages about gender relations."―E. Frances White, Women’s Review of Books
"A respectful approach to [the mysteries of the Sande], by an art historian who has tiptoed where anthropologists feared to tread. Radiance from the Waters deserves to be read. … It provides something more interesting than esoteric knowledge: an extended meditation on notions of beauty and decorum and the way in which these can be translated simultaneously into art and … advancement for women."―John Ryle, London Review of Books
"The first text to illuminate the power of the feminine aesthetic in West African art."―Ms.