Fanado: secret ceremony in the sacred fores
On the island of Canhabaque, Yugu shows us the scars of her initiation. The young woman has undergone the fanado and has thus ascended into the circle of elders. She spent a long time in the sacred forest with other women, devoting herself entirely to traditional ceremonies and rituals. What exactly these consist of is not disclosed to strangers. The significance of the symbols that are cut into bodies and henceforth adorn them remains a secret kept by the Bijagos, depending on the tradition of the particular island. The women remain in the forest until their wounds have healed, and after their return, weeks or months often pass before they are allowed to speak with or have contact with men again.
“The woman and the man build their hut together. However, in the event of separation, it remains the property of the woman. In the past, only the woman could end the relationship. As a sign of this, she simply placed the man’s belongings in front of the hut.”
The young women tell us that nowadays it is no longer customary for women to choose their husbands unilaterally: “We’ve heard about the tradition of the rice bowl, but we don’t practice this ritual ourselves anymore.”