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Photo essay Manjak religion (Guinea Bissau)


Wim van Binsbergen



click on thumbnails to enlarge

(all photographs taken May/July 1983-- © 2000 Wim van Binsbergen)


image caption
a typical Manjak shrine, adjacent to a fromager tree; both are housing a land spirit (Manjak: ucaay; Kriolo: irań)
a typical set of ancestral poles (Manjak, singular: pechįp)
containers for sacrificial rum (canna) in front of a diviner-priest's (Manjak: napene; Kriolo: jambakosh -- the latter word is written on the door) shrine, exemplifying local obsession with containers of fluids as models of the human body, the world, and sacrificial relations
a returning labour migrant drinks the remainder of the sacrificial rum (canna) after pouring a libation for his ancestral shrines; note the jeans jacket over the locally woven and tie-dyed wrapper
however inconspicuous, the pole in the foreground marks the principal land shrine owned by the major land priest of the Calequisse area, Antonio Ampa, the aged king (Manjak: nasīn) of the grave-diggers' guild, which is the association of the area's highest-ranking ritual specialists
a senior member of the grave-diggers' guild sweeps the area around the guild's shrine immediately before the guild's annual sacrifice
at some distance from the grave-diggers' guild's shrine where the male members have their annual sacrifial ritual, their wives prepare a meal from the meat yielded by the sacrifice
the members of the grave-diggers' guild share a ritual meal of the pigs they have sacrificed earlier in the course of the annual ritual at their guild's shrine
a local administrative king (Manjak nasīn, Portuguese/Kriolo: regulo) at the varanda of his house, looking at his ancestral shrine; note the sacred fromager tree in the background

it is this shrine which features as vignette in the headings of the pages of this website
children at dusk against a background of the king's ancestral shrines
pouring a libation at the occasion of the inauguration of an oracular shrine, prior to the animal sacrifice; the shrine belongs to the diviner-priest (Manjak: napene; Kriolo: jambakosh) Francesco
two victims at the inauguration of Francesco's oracular shrine
the king of the diviner-priests' guild inspects a chick oracle to ascertain whether the sacrifice for the inauguration of Francesco's oracular shrine has been accepted; note the bloody traces of the sacrifice on the altar, over which one of the pigs has just been killed
after the libation of about two-thirds of the offered quantity (5 litres) of sacrificial drink of rum (canna), the members of the guild of diviner-priests partake of the remainder
clients waiting in the varanda of the house of the diviner-priest Francesco; note the pigs they have brought as victims. By local standards the house is relatively expensive and well-appointed (note the corrugated iron roofing). It has been financed from Francesco's earnings as a labour migrant rather than as a local diviner-priest
grandchildren (first to third from right) of Antonio Ampa, the principal land-priest of the Calequisse area, during their Roman Catholic First Communion celebration in the town of Canchungo (30 kms east of Calequisse), where they also attend secondary school

for additional photos of the Calequisse area, click here



page last modified: 14-02-01 09:57:03      
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