On a starry night in Bissau, under towering kapok trees, hundreds gather to celebrate. To drumbeats and rhythmic songs, dance troupes from various ethnic groups of Guinea-Bissau parade, dance and sing to the delight of the audience. This festival, organized by Inter Pares counterpart Tiniguena, is one of the ways Tiniguena links ecological struggle with cultural emancipation.
At a time when tropical forests are disappearing, Tiniguena has preserved them by supporting a network of community forests protected by local people. At a time when oceans are being emptied of fish, Tiniguena has protected a critical fish spawning ground by creating a marine protected area managed by the local Bijagos.
Augusta Henriques, co-founder of Tiniguena, explains the role of art in its work, "Art is the way to communicate culture. It goes beyond all barriers. During the struggle for independence in Guinea-Bissau, the slogans, the rallying cries, came from artists. They are messengers. And through art, they transmit their visions of the world and new paradigms.” Augusta shares a conversation she had with her mentor and friend, the famous author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire, "We were talking about liberating the creative energies of the people! Art and culture is what allows the expression of the people.”
These teachings influenced the first youth field visits Tiniguena organised. "It wasn't just tourism - young people had to express what they had seen, through essays, poetry, music, drawing. Art is communication and through art we managed to link our love of nature with our love of culture.”For Augusta, art is also a dialogue between peoples and territory, referring to the Kilkidinos tem balur (What We Have Has Value) initiative. Through working with artists and organising festivals, this initiative has firmly placed identity, local knowledge, and agricultural biodiversity in the public mind, and literally, on peoples’ kitchen tables. Demand for local products remains high in Bissau, to the benefit of local farmers.
Inter Pares is proud to support Tiniguena and their work to protect Guinea-Bissau’s delicate ecosystems through conservation and cultural emancipation.
Art is the way to communicate culture. It goes beyond all barriers.