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  7 Interesting Facts About Guinea-Bissau

The Take 10 Volunteer programme recently started a partnership with ADPP Guinea-Bissau and we are beyond excited for the projects and possibilities our volunteers will be able to become part of. In celebration of the newly established cooperation, we want to put some attention to Guinea-Bissau as a country.

 

The small size and similar name to Guinea are often a reason people overlook the beauty and achievements of the country that fought hard for their independence and on-going development. Today, we want to present seven not-so-well-know-facts about Guinea-Bissau.

It’s Bissau-Guineans, not Guinea-Bissauans

Guinea-Bissau was originally part of the kingdom of Gabu, the Mali Empire until the 19th century when it became a Portuguese colony. After getting their independence the people named the country Guinea-Bissau (officially Republic of Guinea-Bissau) after the capital Bissau.

The reason for adding the name of the capital as an official part of the country’s name is to avoid confusion with the south-eastern neighbor Guinea. The people of Guinea-Bissau prefer to be called Bissau-Guineans putting the focus on the capital name as not to be confused for residents of Guinea.

Gumbe? Goombay? Gumbay?

Gumbe (also seen as goombay or gumbay) is the most popular form of music in Guinea-Bissau. It originates from the Caribbean influenced by the fast tempo zouk style. The Bissau-Guineans have consistently practiced and developed the music style starting with simple drum beating performed by men and supporting dance of women gradually fusing different folk motives and adding political elements in the singing to make it what it is today.

Arranged marriages and individual choices

Arranged marriages are part of the past of many cultures. For Guinea-Bissau, they are still an active phenomenon. The peoples of Rural Mandinka and Fula still practice the activity that includes paying a brideprice or groom service, however, young people tend to choose their partners themselves. That is also part of the culture and not frowned upon as breaking a tradition.

Ghana’s role

The flag of Guinea-Bissau might strongly remind you of the Ghanaian one. Both have the same gold, red, and green colors, as well as the black star of Africa, the only difference is the arrangement of those elements.

It is true that Bissau-Guineans got their inspiration from Ghana for the creation of the flag – the struggle Ghanaians had to go through to earn their freedom was the main driving force for Guinea-Bissau’s liberation.

After the independence of Ghana in 1957 president Kwame Nkrumah started an ambitious project. He went on tour around African countries and strived to inspire them to take part in his vision for the “United States of Africa”.

The fight for the independence of Guinea-Bissau was greatly supported (morally and materially) by Nkrumah – another reason for the country to pay tribute with their flag.

Lost in history: Amílcar Cabral

One of the most important figures in Guinea-Bissau’s history is the intellectual, poet, theoretician, diplomat, and political activist Amílcar Cabral.

Cabral lived during the early to mid 20th century and turned into the main driving force for Guinea-Bissau’s liberation. The activist spent part of his life in Portugal and this was the reason he became well-aware and deeply sensitive towards the country’s rule over Guinea-Bissau.

Eventually, Amílcar Cabral would establish the African Party for the Independence of Guine and Cabo Verde (PAIGC), leading early political resistance towards colonial power. It started in the form of strikes requiring better wages and work conditions. After meeting disapprovements in the form of bloodshed PAIGC would resort to different approaches and shift their activity towards countryside areas where Cabral would demonstrate his extensive abilities in guerrilla-style tactics.

Cabral’s contribution to the development of Guinea-Bissau also involves the popularization of sustainable agriculture. His agronomic background helped him teach farmers better growing techniques and increase productivity. During his involvement with PAIGC Carbal was actively involved in setting up trade-and-barter bazaar systems moving around the country and making essential goods easily available to the population.

His leadership and ideas are the main reason Guinea-Bissau achieved freedom shortly after his assassination in 1973.

A thriving animal habitat

The Archipel de Bolama, part of the Guinea-Bissau Archipelago of 88 islands is a complex recognized as one of UNESCO MAB (Man and Biosphere) Biosphere Reserves. The area serves as a natural habitat of thousands of bats residing in abandoned ruins left behind after the Portuguese colonization.

Bats are not the only animals occupying Bolama, hippopotamus and many birds can be seen on the land while bottle-nose dolphin, African manatee, green turtle, Nile crocodile, and numerous fish species thrive in the waters.

Apart from being naturally preserved, containing rich wildlife, and preserving historic ruins, the place also has attractive beaches. All of this makes Archipel de Bolama a popular tourist destination.

All the way to the Bissagos Islands

The whole archipelago of the Bissagos Islands plays a crucial role in the history of Guinea-Bissau. It consists of 88 islands in total, 20 of which are inhabited all year round.

Due to the geographical location, the islands had central importance for the trade and development of West Africa during pre- (and post) colonial times. The ecosystem is very diverse as the picture of Archipel de Bolama hints. Mangroves with intertidal zones, palm, dry, and semi-dry forests, as well as coastal savannas are just a part of the natural treasures the archipelago holds.

Culture and art are also varied – the Bissagos peoples produce different artifacts for routines and rituals that are considered cultural heritage. This includes traditional iconography differing from island to island as well as the Bidyogo art – sculptures serving as portable shrines and zoomorphic masks with distinctive style.

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Guinea-Bissau Location

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Ghana and Guinea-Bissau liberation

Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories…

Amílcar Cabral

ADPP Guinea-Bissau

Check our partner page for ADPP Guinea-Bissau to learn more about the organization and projects

Guinea-Bissau Unexpected Facts
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Guinea-Bissau Facts

The Take 10 Volunteer programme recently started a partnership with ADPP Guinea-Bissau and we are beyond excited for the projects and possibilities our volunteers will be able to become part of. In celebration of the newly established cooperation, we want to put some attention to Guinea-Bissau as a country.

 

The small size and similar name to Guinea are often a reason people overlook the beauty and achievements of the country that fought hard for their independence and on-going development.

Today, we want to present seven not-so-well-know-facts about Guinea-Bissau.

Guinea-Bissau Location

Guinea-Bissau is located in the West Africa’s Atlantic coast between Senegal and Guinea

1. It’s Bissau-Guineans, not Guinea-Bissauans

Guinea-Bissau was originally part of the kingdom of Gabu, the Mali Empire until the 19th century when it became a Portuguese colony. After getting their independence the people named the country Guinea-Bissau (officially Republic of Guinea-Bissau) after the capital Bissau.

The reason for adding the name of the capital as an official part of the country’s name is to avoid confusion with the south-eastern neighbor Guinea. The people of Guinea-Bissau prefer to be called Bissau-Guineans putting the focus on the capital name as not to be confused for residents of Guinea.

2. Gumbe? Goombay? Gumbay?

Gumbe (also seen as goombay or gumbay) is the most popular form of music in Guinea-Bissau. It originates from the Caribbean influenced by the fast tempo zouk style. The Bissau-Guineans have consistently practiced and developed the music style starting with simple drum beating performed by men and supporting dance of women gradually fusing different folk motives and adding political elements in the singing to make it what it is today.

3. Arranged marriages and individual choices

Arranged marriages are part of the past of many cultures. For Guinea-Bissau, they are still an active phenomenon. The peoples of Rural Mandinka and Fula still practice the activity that includes paying a brideprice or groom service, however, young people tend to choose their partners themselves. That is also part of the culture and not frowned upon as breaking a tradition.

 

4. Ghana’s role

The flag of Guinea-Bissau might strongly remind you of the Ghanaian one. Both have the same gold, red, and green colors, as well as the black star of Africa, the only difference is the arrangement of those elements.

It is true that Bissau-Guineans got their inspiration from Ghana for the creation of the flag – the struggle Ghanaians had to go through to earn their freedom was the main driving force for Guinea-Bissau’s liberation.

After the independence of Ghana in 1957 president Kwame Nkrumah started an ambitious project. He went on tour around African countries and strived to inspire them to take part in his vision for the “United States of Africa”.

The fight for the independence of Guinea-Bissau was greatly supported (morally and materially) by Nkrumah – another reason for the country to pay tribute with their flag.

Ghana and Guinea-Bissau liberation

5. Lost in history: Amílcar Cabral

One of the most important figures in Guinea-Bissau’s history is the intellectual, poet, theoretician, diplomat, and political activist Amílcar Cabral.

Cabral lived during the early to mid 20th century and turned into the main driving force for Guinea-Bissau’s liberation. The activist spent part of his life in Portugal and this was the reason he became well-aware and deeply sensitive towards the country’s rule over Guinea-Bissau.

Eventually, Amílcar Cabral would establish the African Party for the Independence of Guine and Cabo Verde (PAIGC), leading early political resistance towards colonial power. It started in the form of strikes requiring better wages and work conditions. After meeting disapprovements in the form of bloodshed PAIGC would resort to different approaches and shift their activity towards countryside areas where Cabral would demonstrate his extensive abilities in guerrilla-style tactics.

Cabral’s contribution to the development of Guinea-Bissau also involves the popularization of sustainable agriculture. His agronomic background helped him teach farmers better growing techniques and increase productivity. During his involvement with PAIGC Carbal was actively involved in setting up trade-and-barter bazaar systems moving around the country and making essential goods easily available to the population.

His leadership and ideas are the main reason Guinea-Bissau achieved freedom shortly after his assassination in 1973.

 

Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories…

Amílcar Cabral

6. A thriving animal habitat

The Archipel de Bolama, part of the Guinea-Bissau Archipelago of 88 islands is a complex recognized as one of UNESCO MAB (Man and Biosphere) Biosphere Reserves. The area serves as a natural habitat of thousands of bats residing in abandoned ruins left behind after the Portuguese colonization.

Bats are not the only animals occupying Bolama, hippopotamus and many birds can be seen on the land while bottle-nose dolphin, African manatee, green turtle, Nile crocodile, and numerous fish species thrive in the waters.

Apart from being naturally preserved, containing rich wildlife, and preserving historic ruins, the place also has attractive beaches. All of this makes Archipel de Bolama a popular tourist destination.

7. All the way to the Bissagos Islands

The whole archipelago of the Bissagos Islands plays a crucial role in the history of Guinea-Bissau. It consists of 88 islands in total, 20 of which are inhabited all year round.

Due to the geographical location, the islands had central importance for the trade and development of West Africa during pre- (and post) colonial times. The ecosystem is very diverse as the picture of Archipel de Bolama hints. Mangroves with intertidal zones, palm, dry, and semi-dry forests, as well as coastal savannas are just a part of the natural treasures the archipelago holds.

Culture and art are also varied – the Bissagos peoples produce different artifacts for routines and rituals that are considered cultural heritage. This includes traditional iconography differing from island to island as well as the Bidyogo art – sculptures serving as portable shrines and zoomorphic masks with distinctive style.

ADPP Guinea-Bissau

Check our partner page for ADPP Guinea-Bissau to learn more about the organization and projects