Festivals in Guinea Bissau, between creativity and sensuality
The festivals in Guinea Bissau are famous for having two carnivals, including the incredible tribal carnival. The populations parade with festive sensuality, showing the portentous African creativity. Many other animist ceremonies are linked to the rhythm of the seasons, such as the “Vaca Bruto” mask which dances at the end of the harvests.
Travel to Africa with music in the background. Guinea-Bissau, for example, is quite particular and is usually associated with the polyrhythmic gumbe genre, the country’s main musical export. Pumpkin is the main musical instrument, used to accompany dances with an extremely fast and complex rhythm. The lyrics are almost always in Guinea-Bissau-Creole and are often fun and topical. The word “gumbe” is sometimes used in a generic way, to refer to any type of music in the country, even if it refers more specifically to a unique style that blends a dozen of the country’s popular musical traditions. Tina and Tinga are other popular genres, while popular traditions include ceremonial music used during funerals, initiations and other rituals.
The Carnival of our tours in Africa
The carnival in Guinea Bissau is a great mix of African and Portuguese traditions, and is the most heartfelt festival in the whole country. It is held between February and March and lasts a couple of days.
In the capital Bissau, along the main avenue “Avenida Amilcar Cabral“, masks from every region of the country and from the “Bario” (neighbourhoods of the capital) use to parade. Tam-tam, traditional masks, warriors armed with arrows and covered with crocodile skins, charming young girls who show off beautiful hairstyles and who parade dressed only in beads, contemporary masks in paper mache. Hours of parade, which make this carnival an unforgettable “folk festival“, where Portuguese influence is syncretized with the joy of life and African magic.
Vaca Bruto ceremony
The life of the Bijagos ethnic groups is still governed by the rhythm of the seasons and agriculture. After the harvests, during the long dry season the time for ceremonies comes. Vaca Bruto is a wooden mask on which authentic Zebu horns are mounted and is the embodiment of a powerful spirit of nature. The dancers, whose identity is kept secret, belong to a specific “age group” or degree of initiation. All the characters of the village intervene in these dances: the elderly, the young warriors, the great initiates who previously wore the mask, priests and sorcerers including the powerful priestesses, typical of a matriarchal society.
The uninhabited island of Poilao is of great beauty and is considered one of the main nesting sites for green sea turtles. After sunset, turtles emerge from the ocean to dig a large hole in the sand and lay up to a hundred eggs. At the same time, the newly born turtles emerge from the sand and head towards the ocean to start a long journey. This will bring them back to the same beach 25-35 years later, when the females have reached sexual maturity.