Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bijagós Islands of Guinea Bissau

We have discussed the country of Guinea Bissau but I have not previously written about the Archipelago of the Bijagós, which is comprised of 88 beautiful, tropical islands located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Guinea Bissau. 

The Bijagós is made up of spectacular unspoiled beaches, abundant flora and fauna which deemed it to be classified as a United Nations World Heritage Biosphere Reserve. The islands have the world's only salt water hippos and155 species of fish. Some of its other inhabitants include crocodiles, dolphins, monkeys and the striped antelope. Eight species of tortoise make their home there along with 96 species of migratory birds.
It is only due to the extreme difficulty in navigating the narrow channels between the islands that has kept the giant fishing boats away.

There are many islands that outsiders never reach as only about 20 of the the islands are inhabited. 
Separated by space and time, the Bijagós are the most mysterious and traditional community in Guinea Bissau. Their isolation has allowed them to maintain their cultural traditions pretty much intact. Little is known about origins of Bijago, but the linguistic traits connect them clearly to present day inhabitants of their nearby continental coast.

On the island of Orango Grande there is a matriarchal society where women possess all the power.  They organize themselves into associations which manage the economy, social welfare and the law.

  Noone really knows for sure when and from where the Bijagós originated. It is a common belief among them, however, that it was Orebok, an intermediary between the Supreme Being, and the Bijagós, who began the world.

   The first human being was a woman, called Akapakama also known as Maria. This name originated from the first word her son told her, while lying helpless and naked on the seashore, ‘come, take me’.

   Akapakama  had four children, called Orákuma, Oraga, Onoca or Ogubane, and Ominka. They are the four mythological ancestors of the four matrilineal clans of the Bijagó.

The women are especially important in the political and cultural system of Bijago, as they determine the chiefs' line of inheritance. The matriarchal order is so strong that the women select their husband, can force divorce upon them, and then order the men to take custody the children.

In the Bijagó society the village with a population of 100 - 300 inhabitants is a basic political and economic unit. The village is autonomous and generally self-sufficient in the socio-religious and economic matters.

*Source: So little information was available that I gathered photos and information for this post from many different sources. As it is customary for me to name each with a link back, I apologize that I am unable to give credit to each. If you would like credit or a link back please contact me and I would be happy to add it to the post.

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