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Visual Art Paper 1, Nov/Dec. 2009  
Questions: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Main
General Comments
Question 5

Discuss the Mende under the following headings:

  • origin;
  • economic and social life;
  • two art works and their characteristics.



The candidates demonstrated apparent lack of understanding of West African art. Some candidates regarded the Mende people as Nigerians and their art works were mentioned to include Nok art, Ife art e.t.c. Only a few candidates were able to answer this question correctly.

Cadidates were expected to respond to the question as follows:

  • Origin 

    The Mendes originated from Sierra-Leone but later migrated to western part of Liberia.

Economic and social life.

  • The Mendes were mainly farmers spread into clans and sub-clans and their art is strongly influenced by this culture of clans system.
  • Their artworks were produced for social, traditional and religious purposes.
  • Men’s secret society ; Poro and women’s Sande or Yassi both form a strong political group.

Artworks include:

  • Nomoli figures;
  • Bundu Masks;
  • Minsere figures;
  • Obini mask.

Characteristics of Artworks

  • Masks are usually life size.
  • Figures were mostly in stone while masks are in wood.
  • Shape of masks is elongated.
  • Bulging forehead.
  • Small and straight nose with scarifications.
  • Lips tightly closed and very close to the lower edge of the face.
  • Masks have smooth finishing.
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