Outer Beauty/Inner Anguish: Ritual Initiation Entrapment & Power
Twenty-five years ago, while I was living in Mendeland, Sierra Leone, there were these young girls, ages ten to fifteen, who would visit my hut everyday. We began rituals of them combing my hair, trying on my clothing, putting on my lip-gloss. They taught me the formal greetings (in Mende), how to sit like a Mende woman, eat with my tongue never allowing the food to touch my lips. They showed me how to cook on three rocks and wash my clothes in the river, beating them on washing stones. They taught me the birth chants and I learned, too soon to recognize the death song. Suddenly, one morning there were no young girls in the village. They returned thirteen weeks later changed. Our ritual of sisterhood was no more. They no longer had the sparkle of wonderment in their eyes; they weren't silly young girls any longer. They didn't want to have anything to do with me, I could not understand, I didn't know why. I know now, they were circumcised.