Guinea Bissau, Roxa Island
Roxa Island lies in the middle of lovely archipelago where we have stopped several times in the past. The people on Roxa speak a mixture of French, Portuguese, Spanish and English liberally sprinkled with their own ethnic languages which have been isolated from the mainland so long that they are no longer mutually intelligible.

The visit to the island is very tide dependent and we have to make it up the channel and back out before the tide d rops. You can see the channel is shallow where the children are playing in the water.

The inhabitants of Roxa always put on a spectacular cultural show for us demonstrating pieces of their very complex social structure. They celebrate a number of different occasions, each with its own type of dancing. Here we see samples of the famous dance of the bull, a shark, a water buffalo (which do not exist on the islands) and various other performances by women and children. The island is ruled by a "queen" who came to preside over the festivities.

Poverty here is incredibly severe but they do have a new school and clinic and are making efforts to bring some benefits of civilization. They live on subsistence agriculture and tourism, which is very rare. We were probably the first tourists they had welcomed in a long time.

Roxa culture is known for its long initiation rites for males. Adult men in their late thirties and early forties, leave their families and go into seclusion much like a monastic life. Their wives often take new husbantds. While in seclusion the men can dance and perform rituats and they learn the cultural secrets of the society. They have no sex during this period which lasts seven years. Only men in seclusion may perform some of the dances, especially the bull mask dance.
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