Mende

Mende
/men"dee/, n., pl. Mendes, (esp. collectively) Mende for 1.
1. a member of a people living in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
2. a Niger-Congo language of the Mande branch spoken by the Mende people.

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France
      town, capital of Lozère département, Languedoc-Roussillon région, southern France, lying south-southeast of Clermont-Ferrand. It is situated at 2,425 feet (739 metres) above sea level in the Massif Central, on the left bank of the Lot River at the foot of a limestone plateau. With practically no industry, the town depends primarily on the tourist trade, being favoured by its position, which is 17 miles (28 km) from the magnificent Gorges of the Tarn. Surrounding mountain areas also attract visitors in winter.

      The town's cathedral (restored in the 17th century) was built mainly in the 14th century, and a narrow 14th-century bridge over the Lot still stands. The seat of a bishopric since the 10th century, the town was sacked in 1579–80 by the Huguenots and was rebuilt early in the 17th century. Pop. (1999) 11,804; (2005 est.) 12,600.

people
      people of Sierra Leone, including also a small group in Liberia; they speak a language of the Mande branch of the Niger-Congo family. The Mende grow rice as their staple crop, as well as yams and cassava. Cash crops include cocoa, ginger, peanuts (groundnuts), and palm oil and kernels. They practice shifting agriculture, with the heads of kin groups allocating land to individual households, which perform most of the work. Men fell trees and clear the fields, and women weed.

      The Mende occupy small towns and villages. Groups of towns and villages form sections, and several sections make up the modern chiefdom. Each section is headed by a subchief, who is the eldest suitable descendant in the male line of the founder of the area; the chiefdom is headed by a paramount chief chosen on the same basis.

      The chief is a secular leader only; ritual power is in the hands of the secret poro society. Membership in the poro is necessary for anyone in a position of authority. In addition to enforcing Mende law, the poro and other secret societies educate boys and girls, regulate sexual conduct, and concern themselves with agricultural fertility and military training; men masked as spirits are prominent in these activities. The women's secret society is the sande.

      The traditional religion of the Mende includes belief in a supreme creator god, ancestral spirits, and nature deities. Diviners are consulted in times of illness or ominous experience, and the Mende believe in the power of witches. Many Mende are now Muslims or Christians, however.

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Universalium. 2010.

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