Radiance from the Waters

Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende Art

Sylvia Ardyn Boone

View Inside Price: $32.00


August 29, 1990
302 pages, 7 x 9
90 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300048612
Paper

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.

Sylvia Ardyn Boone is associate professor of the history of art and African and Afro-American Studies at Yale University.

"The work is magnificently and appealingly produced and excellently illustrated by appropriate field photographs. The book is highly original in its coverage and sheds considerable light on African aesthetic criteria. I am extremely pleased that Yale University Press has published the book; the long delay is immaterial."— Daniel Biebuyck, H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Anthropology and Humanities, University of Delaware
 

 

 


 

 
 
 



 

"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

" Radiance From the Waters is the first text to illuminate the power of the feminine aesthetic in West African art."—Ms.

"A highly articulate and ebullient piece of writing, with many well-developed theses on common Mende thought."—Frederick Lamp, African Arts
 

"An extraordinary and groundbreaking book."—Paula Giddings, Essence

"This work will stand as a major contribution to the study of African art and the Sowo mask in particular."—Janet L. Stanley, Art Documentation

"She explores Mende philosophy and canons of beauty by grounding herself in the physical arts and moving from the concrete to an understanding of the metaphysical. Her study of Mende concepts of beauty takes us inside the world where women live. . . . 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. Francis White, Women's Review of Books

"A profound and sensitive document on the Sande society and the masks associated with it."—Sandra Klopper, African Studies

"A truly remarkable accomplishment."—Sidney Littlefield Kasfir, International Journal of African Studies
 

"Mende typically want little to do with outsiders, so Boone's beautifully written book is all the more unusual in its gut-level contact with these fascinating women's inspiring and sometimes disturbing lives and beliefs."—Feminist Bookstore News
 

"This lavishly produced, impressively illustrated, and very readable volume reports field research in some depth on a significant topic."—P.E.H. Hair, Canadian Journal of African Studies

"A pleasant, clever, and very attractive book. . . . The discussion of women's beauty and the significance of its transformation in the carved, immobile Sowo mask-faces is enhanced by nearly a hundred photographs, which are attractive in themselves and also integrated into the text so that reading, looking, and imagining flow together. . . . This is a highly readable, absorbing and evocative study."—Karin Barber, Wasafiri
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