1. a member of an indigenous people living mainly in Liberia.2. the Mande language of the Kpelle people.
* * *People occupying central Liberia and part of Guinea.Numbering about one million, the Kpelle speak a Mande language of the Niger-Congo languages. They form about one-fifth of the population of Liberia. They are primarily rice farmers; cash crops include peanuts, sugarcane, and kola nuts. They are known for their elaborate secret societies (Poro for men, Sande for women), which serve a variety of social and political functions.
* * *▪ peoplealso called Guerzepeople occupying much of central Liberia and extending into Guinea, where they are sometimes called the Guerze; they speak a language of the Mande branch of the Niger-Congo family.The Kpelle are primarily farmers. Rice is their staple crop and is supplemented by cassava, vegetables, and fruits; cash crops include rice, peanuts (groundnuts), sugarcane, and kola nuts. The Kpelle practice slash-and-burn agriculture. The typical household consists of a man, his several wives, and their children; they live either in rectangular wattle-and-daub huts with thatched roofs or in the more traditional round huts with conical thatched roofs. The household is the usual farming unit, but some farm work is also performed by a voluntary cooperative work group.The Kpelle are organized under several paramount chiefs, who, as government officials, serve as mediators between the people and the modern government, as well as performing their traditional duties of settling disputes, preserving order, and maintaining roads. A chiefdom is divided into districts; the head of each district serves as a liaison between the paramount chief and his people. Each town also has its own chief.The poro and the sande are, respectively, male and female secret societies that meet in sacred groves in the forest. The poro, the more important of the organizations, is personified by the Great Masked Figure, or Grand Master, a person who only appears in public disguised by a mask, costume, and falsetto voice. He represents both the political power of important landowners and the ritual power of supernatural authorities. The poro functions to enforce social norms through its court, to socialize young people through its initiation schools, and to provide bonds that unite members from different kinship and territorial units.
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