ARCHIPELAGO




The Arquipélago dos Bijagós (Bissago Islands) is a biosphere reserve with 88 islands off the West African coast of Guinea-Bissau with an estimated population of 30,000 Bijagós. It is a site on which various actors lead by the IBAP–Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas are currently working intensively in order to make the archipelago recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, particularly to protect the increasingly endangered migratory bird routes, among other ecological problems. Assumed to be originally matriarchal, the animistic community of the Bijagós were one of the Guinean etnic groups who most resisted Portuguese colonialism. Their symbiotic relationship to the environment plays a entral role in the cosmology of the Archipelago; the sacralisation of flora, fauna and land is associated with an intrinsic nature conservation. Some islands and marine areas are considered to be sanctuaries and are prohibited for centry at certain times of the year. Those practices and rules are entagled with local mythologies which intrinsically aim to protect sensitive reproductive phenomena and their rituals in ecological senses.