Puberty and Initiation

One of the most important life cycle events occurs when boys and girls reach puberty. To mark the changes that take place when young people's bodies begin to change, many African cultures hold ceremonies in which young people are given formal instruction about marriage, household duties, caring for farms and animals, and learning secret knowledge. All of this instruction helps them prepare for adult responsibilities and initiates them into adulthood. Young people may also undergo a period of seclusion - they go away and stay by themselves. During this time they are circumcised and emerge with a new social status.

Like getting a driver's license or a high school diploma for young people in America, African teenagers look forward to initiation ceremonies that provide them access to a new stage of life. Young men and women who live in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia practice initiation ceremonies called:



(for young men)



(for young women)


© Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University,
Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and Dallas Museum of Art
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