The various peoples of Sierra Leone predominantly belong to the Mende and Kissi tribes who make their living from rice farming. They are led by chiefs whose power is counterbalanced by the powerful Poro male society; the female society is called Sande.
The Mende and Kissi people revere stone anthropomorphic carvings which are found in fields and rivers in an area centered around the Sewa and Mano rivers. The Kissi people call them Pombo (pl. Pomtam), which means ‘the deceased’, while the Mende refer to the carvings as Nomoli (pl Nomolisia). These carvings are extremely old and it was not until 1959 that Western scholars associated them with the so-called Afro-Portuguese ivory objects. The latter – made between 1490 and 1530 and found in all the European royal courts – display a mixture of European themes in an African style. Oliphans, salt cellars, spoons and forks were designed on paper by Europeans and were executed in ivory by mainly Sapi artists.
Baquart, Jean-Baptiste. The Tribal Arts of Africa. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc. 1998. Print.