TRIBAL AFRICAN ART
MANO (MAN, MANON)
Liberia and Guinea
Mano people live in Liberia and southernmost Guinea and their lives are dominated by the powerful men's secret society, poro, and the women's secret society, sande. During a long period of initiation, the Mano boys are taught local history, law, good manner. They also learn how to make farms, how to hunt and make and set traps, to build houses and how to live with the family in short, things that are essential for the survival of the community.
Their masks, representing a spirit (ge), have special names, the belief being that it was the mask, not the man, which performs the specific ritual function. Poro masquerades are not always frightening. In many Mano communities the guardian of poro initiation is a beautiful female masquerade, honored as the mother of all other masked spirits, who appears to boys as they enter the poro enclosure. She gathers food and supplies during the boys' seclusion, and may convey news to their families. Even though this female spirit is animated by a man, it is usually owned by the woman who is the only female elder allowed within the initiation center. Mano masks often display red fabric decorations.
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