People from other cultures are to take note and comment accordingly)
On the island of Orango Grande, in the Bijagos Archipelago, off the coast of Guinea Bissau, there is a matriarchal society where women possess all the power, where they organise themselves into associations which manage the economy, social welfare and the law.
It is they who impose sanctions, direct, advise and distribute goods, and they are respected as the absolute owners of both the house and the land. Here it is the man who has the obligation to dress very well to attract the attention of a woman. Women hold the supreme power of divorce in marriage. Men are turned to only for the tilling of the fields, hunting monkeys and fishing.
Bijago also known as Bissagos,Bojagos,Anaki, Bidjogo, Bidyogo, and Bujagos are an ethnic group which can be encountered only in Guinea Bissau.The Bijagos islands, is the only deltaic archipelago on the Atlantic coast of Africa and it comprises 80 islands and covers an area of nearly 10,000 km off the coast of Guinea Bissau.It is argued that the country`s name “Bissau ” came from the corruption of the name “Bissagos.”
Bijago have traditionally resented all centralized authority,whether Portuguese,*French*, English, German or contemporary government officials. In 1447,when the Portuguese explorer, Nuna Tristao, tried to conquer the Bijagos, they killed him instantly because they do not want any form of rule except their matriarchal traditional system that create chiefs to rule them.
The Bijagos rose up in rebellion against the Portuguese in 1900,1913-1915,1917,1918,1924 and 1936. Portugal did not consider the Bijago as pacified until 1936.
The political power is in the hands of the village chief, which is being justified by his connection with the ancestors through matrilineal descent. He is a leader of every community, he makes the decisions and controls the distribution of the land. In this important task he is assisted by the council of elders.
The women are especially important in the political and cultural system of Bijago, as they determine the chiefs’ line of inheritance.The matriarchal order was so strong that the women selected their men and could force divorce on their husbands, the man keeping the children.
Within the clan the inheritance is of the matrilineal type, but after the matrimony the whole family lives in the husband’s house. All of them belong to the clan of the mother. It is important in terms of the allocation of the land and responsibilities typical for Bijagos.
The principle of matrilineal heredity, strongly supported by the chief living always in the clan’s village, reinforces integrity of the Bijago community. Four matrilineal clans are present on all islands and that principle doesn’t allow to divide the land property.