The Culture Of Equatorial Guinea

Bata, Equatorial Guinea.
Bata, Equatorial Guinea.

Officially known as the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, this African nation is located on the central western coast of the continent. As a former Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea gained its independence in 1968 but then became a dictatorship under elected president Francisco Macías Nguema. In 1969, however, the totalitarian regime was overthrown. With a land area of 10,830 square miles Equatorial Guinea is currently home to a population of 1,352,964 people with a population density of 126 people per square mile.


Equatorial Guinea is primarily a Christian nation with some 93% of its residents belonging to the Christian faith. Of these church goers the majority, about 88%, are Roman Catholics. Protestants make up approximately five per cent of the population. Other than Christianity, a small minority of Equatorial Guinea’s citizens (about two percent) are followers of Islam, particularly the Sunni denomination. Another five per cent of the population are followers of the Bahá'í Faith or profess a belief in an array of traditional indigenous religions such as Animism.


Citizens living in Equatorial Guinea may take part in various festivals and holidays throughout the year including those tied to the majority Christian faith such as Christmas. Other important dates observed by residents of this African country include President’s Day, Armed Forces Day, as well as Independence Day. President’s Day is observed every June 5th and marks the birthday of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who overthrew his dictator uncle during a military coup in 1979 and has been the Equatorial Guinea’s president ever since. Armed Forces Day is held on August 3rd and celebrates the achievements of the nation’s military forces. In honor of Equatorial Guinea’s official independence from Spain the nation annually commemorates their Independence Day on October 12th. Two important festivals which take place in the country include the ten day long Malabo Hip Hop Festival held in December and the Music Day Festival, sponsored in part by the nation’s Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, in celebration of the country’s rich musical history.


Many cultures have played a role in shaping Equatorial Guinea’s national cuisine. Traditional meals enjoyed by locals include dishes rooted in the country's history as a Spanish colony, Islamic tradition, as well as recipes passed down through generations of local central and western African tribes. Ingredients in an array of native dishes include various types of meat including chicken, game, fish, snails, and so called “bush-meat” which can consist of wildlife such as lizards, gorillas, and lemurs. Fruits and vegetables used in the cuisine of Equatorial Guinea include locally sourced nuts, yam, plantains, sweet potato, rice, cassava root, bananas, and bread fruit. Some popular dishes among local residents include rocky mountain oysters (deep fried bull testicles) and spicy peppersoup (made up of ingredients such as chili peppers, meat, and nutmeg). Popular beverages in Equatorial Guinea include Osang tea, a sugar cane brew known as Malamba, palm wine, and beer.

Music And Dance

A number of musical genres are popular in Equatorial Guinea. These include reggae and rock music as well as a variety of African music including Makossa and Soukous. Makossa originated in the nearby nation of Cameroon and has been described as being an urban musical style which uses brass instruments in order to create its distinctive dance music. Soukous music can be traced back to its beginnings in the nation of the Congo and is a genre of dance music. Soukous is closely associated with the rumba. Because of its history as a Spanish colony this musical tradition is still popular in Equatorial Guinea; specifically this traditional music is associated with acoustic guitars. Other instruments popular in local music include drums, bow harps, and wooden xylophones. Dance also plays an important part in the culture of Equatorial Guinea. Two well-known dances are the sensually suggestive ibanga and the balélé dance which is performed on special occasions such as holidays.


Due to the influence of Spanish culture and art, a large number of authors from Equatorial Guinea write in Spanish. In terms of history the literary tradition in this African nation has evolved over the years and is usually broken down into three distinct categories; the Elder Generation (1900-1968), the Exiled Generation (1968-1985), and the Contemporary Generation (post 1985). The writings of authors from the Elder Generation mainly used their art to write about with the realities of Spanish colonial rule on the people of Equatorial Guinea while many writers from the Exiled Generation were forcefully removed from their home country during the early years of political independence and the upheavals that followed. Contemporary authors are renowned for using their form of artistic expression as a way in which to explore a variety of social, cultural, and political aspects of the realities of life in modern Equatorial Guinea. Noted writers from Equatorial Guinea include María Nsué Angüe (1945- 2017), Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel (born in 1966), Justo Bolekia Boleká (born 1954), and Leoncio Evita Enoy (1929-1996).

Social Beliefs And Etiquettes

Most local residents live in rural areas and choose to wear traditional African clothing. In part because of the nation’s colonial Spanish history its system of law is based on traditional African tribal law as well as the Spanish legal system. The country‘s government is very restrictive when it comes to affording its citizens with individual rights and freedoms. Family units are responsible for the welfare of their individual members and thus the task of caring for the aging and ill is largely a family matter. Because of this extended families tend to co-habituate with several generations living together in order to share resources and labor. Many of the beliefs and social etiquette rules which govern daily life in Equatorial Guinea have a basis in tribal (particularly the Fang tribe) customs and traditions. Polygyny, a practice in which a man marries more than one wife, is often practiced and female residents are restricted to obeying strict rules of behavior based on long held beliefs surrounding male and female roles in society.


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