Festivals are one of the characteristics uniting human beings throughout the world. Festivities of many different origins and forms are held and have a very wide range of meanings. However, in general, it is that diversity itself which translates the key role played by holding such festivities in our lives.
They may come into existence spontaneously, through unsought occurrences, but they often arise as a result of shared cultural events. Some of them are related with the individual cycle of life, or with family, neighborhood, village, city or even the whole country.
Carnival forms part of a seasonal festival within an annual cycle and constitutes a ritual. It is a ritual festivity which is also a performance. All rituals involve a certain concern with prior preparations, location and decorating the place where the festivity is to be held, as well as the clothing, instruments, music, the people who will be taking part…
Ritual festivities take up a large amount of resources, use a wide variety of objects and activities, and display many forms of artistic expression. When all of these factors have been fully prepared and put together, they gradually begin to form a whole, creating the right festive ambience for expressing the ultimate purpose of the festival.
In the context of Africa, Carnival is not a widespread festivity. For many years, the only Carnivals heard of were those in Cape Verde and Reunion Island, though Carnival’s contributions in African cultures have been decisive to the way in which many Latin American and Caribbean carnivals have taken form.
This makes the Carnival of the Bijagó in Guinea Bissau even more surprising: an anthropological surprise of great aesthetic beauty and profound cultural interest. Behind the bull masks which are used at the carnivals in Barranquilla, Colombia, some authors see the representation of the bull in the Bijagó masks that were once used on local war boats in the Bijagó Archipelago and are still used today in initiation ceremonies.
The Bijagó people’s recovery of this forgotten tradition in the Orango Islands provides yet another incentive to visit this natural paradise just bustling with culture. With its very different carnival, it provides a show that draws in visitors with its magic, the power of its cultural performances, and the Bijagó’s traditional dances and music, all filling the atmosphere while comforting the soul.
Yet another excuse to come and visit Guinea Bissau.