The Biafada of Guinea-Bissau
Most of Guinea-Bissau is a low-lying, swampy coastal plain. The land rises gradually to form a plateau region in the east. The maximum elevation of about 1,017 feet is found in the southeast. Within the country, there are about 30 different ethnic groups, the major ones being the Balante, the Fulani, the Pepel, the Malinke, and the Mandyak. Cape Verdians form a small, but significant, minority.
The official language of Guinea-Bissau is Portuguese, but Crioulo, a mixture of Portuguese and African, is more commonly spoken. The Biafada speak a Niger-Congo language that is also known as Biafada.
What are their lives like?
Like most of the people in West Africa, the Biafada are farmers. They grow a variety of crops, using very basic tools. Maize, manioc, and rice are the staples, but squash, melons, sweet potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes are also grown. Major tree crops include bananas, coconuts, mangoes, and papayas. The Biafada raise cattle, sheep, and goats but do not use their milk. Dogs and chickens are seen in almost every village. Hunting is of less importance than agriculture, but there is considerable gathering of wild fruits and roots; berries; and kola, shea, and palm nuts.
The Biafada live in extended family compounds, each consisting of a cluster of huts that are arranged in a circle around an open space. Often the entire compound is surrounded by a fence, hedge, or wall. The compounds usually adjoin to form compact villages. In general, the dwellings are round with mud walls and cone-shaped, thatched roofs. However, many local variations exist.
In the Biafada community, men hunt, fish, clear the land, and tend to the cattle. The women do the gathering and help some in the agricultural work. Chiefs exercise political authority in the villages. Succession usually passes to the next brother, or to the oldest son of the deceased chief's oldest sister.
Circumcision of males is practiced, and some female circumcision is also continued. These practices are mainly associated with initiation ceremonies at puberty and typically involve a period of instruction in an isolated "bush school." In years past, the Tenda (of whom the Biafada are a sub-group) practiced ceremonial cannibalism.
The Biafada tolerate premarital sexual freedom for girls and prefer cousins as marriage partners. A bride-price in livestock, commonly pigs, is paid, and often, premarital bride-service is also required. Polygyny (having more than one wife) occurs to only a limited extent. In such cases, however, each wife has her own hut, and the husband spends a fixed period with each on a rotation basis.
What are their beliefs?
What are their needs?
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