The carnival in Guinea Bissau is a large mix of Afro – Portuguese traditions and it is the most widely celebrated feast throughout the country. It is held in February – March and lasts for several days.
In Bissau along the main street “Amilcar Cabral Avenue”, the masks that come from all regions of the country and the “Barium” (neighborhoods of the capital) begin the parade.
Tam-tam, traditional masks, warriors armed with arrows and covered in crocodile skins, wonderful young girls who boast beautiful headdresses and that parade wearing only pearls; and contemporary paper mache masks give testimony of the incredible imagination and creativity of the native peoples.
Hours of parading make this carnival an unforgettable “festivity”, where the Portuguese influence is synchronized with the joy of living and African magic.
Feast of the Vaca Bruto (“Wild Cattle”) mask
The life of the Bijagos ethnic groups is still governed by the rhythm of the seasons and agriculture. When they complete the harvest during the long dry season, the time of the ceremonies begins.
Vaca Bruto is a wooden mask with authentic horns of Zebu and is an embodiment of a powerful spirit of nature. The dancers, whose identity is kept secret, belong to a certain “age-class” or degree of initiation. Everyone participates in these dances: the elderly, the young warriors, the great initiates who have already gone through the initiation process wearing the masks, priestesses and sorcerers, which includes the powerful priestesses typical of a matriarchal society.
The uninhabited island of Poilão, of great beauty, is considered one of the main nesting sites of the green sea turtles (Chelonia Mydas).
When the sun sets, the turtles emerge from the ocean to dig a big pit in the sand and lay up to one hundred eggs. Later, when the little turtles are born, they barely emerge from the sand and head toward the ocean to start a long journey. This journey will take them back to the same beach 25-35 years later, when the females reach sexual maturity.