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Civil and Human Rights

Masking the truth at the BMA

Masking the truth at the BMA

After reading the Baltimore Museum of Art's 400-word description of Liberia's Sande society — whose wooden masks are on now display in the renovated African Art gallery — you would be forgiven for thinking that the powerful social and political group was just a welcome wagon into womanhood for pre-teen girls.

The BMA describes the initiation into Sande as a sort of summer camp experience in which grown women spend two months in the woods teaching girls about personal care, ceremony and family life in preparation for marriage. When the Sande masks appear in a village, a girl...