"Part of the island's charm is how intimately involved Ibo's community is with their faith and traditions"
The people of Ibo seem weaved together, religion and culture being the distinct threads. The warm hearted friendliness of the people is the first thing that strikes you when you arrive.
The people of Ibo are charismatic characters! Pride in their island seems to burst from within them and they are not shy to share all they know with visitors.
The people of Ibo are Kimwani speaking, a language closely related to Swahili and meaning ‘the language spoken by four peoples - namely Swahili, Jawa, Nyanga, and Macua. Up to 20 percent of the population of Ibo are also able to speak Portuguese.
Ibo Island is approximately 3500 people strong. 99% of the island is Muslim, because of the strong Arab influences in Mozambique’s history. In addition to that, Mozambique tribal customs are still respected and practiced daily.
Culture & Village Life
Way Of Life
The common theme of daily life on Ibo is creative cultural expression. A way of life made beautiful by the people. Ibo’s history has resulted in a hybrid community, with unexpected splashes of European, Indian, Arabic and Chinese influences. This community, with roots reaching deep into the world, have created a way of life unique to Ibo. A way of life that could capture any audience. A way of life where humility and companionship live.
A Typical Day
Days rise with the sun, the cooler temperatures too suggestive to not take advantage of. Chittery children are splashing in the bays before school. Women are tending to their maschambas, growing traditional Mozambique fruits and veg. And the men, out to sea, competing for the catch of the day. Sporting on the Island is dominated by football. Ibo Island enjoys its very own Archipelago football league. A highly impassioned and very important event. Football matches are played on Saturdays and Sundays.
In The Middle Of The Night
Ibo comes alive at night. Song, poetry, dance, and performance seem to linger on the nights breeze. Traditional ceremonies, and traditional drumming sessions, both thump when the sun goes below the horizon. As busy as some nights can be is as quiet as others can get. On very still nights dolphins can be heard in the bays, as they hunt in pods for dinner.
Tradition and culture is the heart of Ibo Island. It is a common bond, so strong; the grip has remained unloosened for centuries. These values direct all that occurs on the island. All events on Ibo are celebrated with festive zest and enthusiasm.
This festival centres around one thing - family. It is called Kueto Siriwala (cue-to sea-ree-wala). It means; “to not forget your roots, regardless of how far away from home you are.” It is celebrated on an almost forgotten island, on the edge of the world, Ibo Island. Ibo becomes adorned with vibrant colours, and soaked with cultural arts and beliefs.
In 1773, Ibo Island was declared the capital of Cabo Delgado. It was this year, on June 25th, that the first Kueto Siriwala festival was held. Preparations toward this festival now known as the Ibo Festival start as early as the beginning of the year. Along with the government; the locals, Fundacao do Ibo, and Ibo Island Lodge assist in facilitating the event.
Fresh seafood, coconut rice, tropical fruit – are all abundant. Anthems are sung. Bicycles race for fun. Canoes and traditional sailing dhows compete on the still waters. School children present their poetry and plays to the crowds. Traditional dancing takes place – all originally from Ibo Island. A sense of community penetrates you. A sense of belonging surrounds you. Your heart sinks into this festival, a festival that brings families home. You find yourself, a visitor to the island, doing a traditional dance with abandon. “Nyoka,” it is called, a snake like dance.
15:00 hours – everyone to the soccer field. You experience soccer in the humblest circumstances; no prestige, commerce or fame. It is just soccer, on an almost forgotten island, on the edge of the world. You sit at the main Ibo Island pitch near the star fort. You sit amongst hundreds of local supporters. You stand in support of your Ibo Island team.
The bonfire is lit at mid-night, “fogueira,” you cheer, having learnt some Portuguese. Fogueira, the bonfire, commemorates Independence Day for Mozambique nation, 25 June.
Celebrations start on the 24th and continue deep into the 26th. After the festival, individuals visiting from other islands make their way to the beach, and wait for the tide to rise to allow them to board dhows and leave the island through the mangrove forests.
Religions & Traditions
99% of the people of Ibo are of Muslim Faith. This is because of the strong Arab influences in Mozambique history. In addition, islanders still respect and practice old Mozambique tribal customs and tribal religions.
Mozambique Ceremonial Occasions
On Ibo Island rites of initiation, weddings, and burials involve traditional dancing, singing and drumming. Celebrations continue throughout the night, and involve traditional Mozambique food.
Traditional Medicine And Superstition
Traditional healers in northern Mozambique are known locally as Curandeiros. It is believed that Curandeiros have the ability to communicate with the ancient spirits from Ibo. They are able to receive advise from the spirit world with regards to possible diseases or problems. The medication that the Curandeiro will prescribe is often made from roots of trees, or collected from the mangroves, which are believed to have many healing powers.
Mozambique Traditional Clothing
The brightly coloured capulana is the traditional cloth that Mozambican women wear as wrap around skirts. Traditionally on Ibo, women do not buy their own capulanas, but rather the men choose and purchase the cloths for their women. If a woman owns many capulanas it is a symbol of affluence and status.
Muciro Face Painting
For centuries, women on Ibo have been painting their faces with Muciro, a thick white cream. The cream is extracted from an indigenous plant called Kipalo which is cut in the bush, and left to dry in the sun for five days. It is then crushed on a stone with a little water and applied to the face with a traditional brush, handmade from coconut fibre. The mask is usually applied in the morning at around 5am, and removed only after the sun has set.
A man is expected to pay lobolo. On Ibo it is known as ‘Mari’ and it is a process of negotiation with the parents of the girl. Negotiations usually include money, and depending on affluence, goats, cattle and dwellings.
Part of the island's charm is how intimately involved Ibo's community is with their faith and traditions.