Okinka Pampa’s destiny was to be Queen of the Bijagó society, on the very islands where we’re based. It was her courage, non-violent nature and commitment to protect her people that made her successful in peace negotiations with the Portuguese. The Kingdom of Portugal was advancing on the west coast of Africa: the mainland of Guinea Bissau had already been conquered and the islands, a few hours from the capital, were the ideal place to expand its ports and prosper.
The Portuguese gradually took over the islands, forcing the locals to give up their land and enslaving them. It was Queen Okinka Pampa, who had initially doubted her ability to lead before she took up office, who was able to stand up to the injustices of her people and negotiate on their behalf with the Portuguese leaders. She gave up everything she had: cattle, food and drink for the army in exchange for peace for her people. And she got it.
She also carried out a number of reforms to improve women’s rights and end slavery. Today she’s remembered throughout the country as its most beloved queen.
“The example provided by Okinka Pampa, her willingness to take care of her community, to preserve her beliefs, her culture and her people, is what inspires us to continue this project started by her over a hundred years ago”
During this time, we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping the local people reclaim their traditional dances, to recreate the typical costumes and relearn old trades such as carpentry. We’re supporting this work because we want these traditions to last and be shared with others. We’ve seen how globalisation can reach even remote islands such as these, and this is only natural. Young people leave for the mainland and other countries in search of new opportunities. We want to help them develop an interest in their cultural identity and, even if they leave the islands, to be strengthened by it.
We have secured funding to implement a large number of micro-projects from different organisations and people who’ve heard about our work, but there’s still a lot to be done.