Officially known as the Republic of Guinea, Guinea is a country in West Africa. Previously known as French Guinea, the country is sometimes also known as Guinea-Conakry for distinction purposes from countries with similar names. The nation has a unique multilayered culture that has been shaped over time by a wide range of ethnic groups, which have their own beliefs and ways of life.
In addition to the Indigenous ethnic groups, the French influenced the culture heavily during colonial times. Guinea obtained its independence on October 2, 1958. Despite the multitude of distinctions and diversity, the country has certain common grounds that bring the nation together. Some of the ethnic groups living in the country include the likes of the Maninka, the Fula/Peuhl, the Susus, and many more. The capital city of the country, which is also the largest city, is Conakry. In total, the nation has an approximate area of 94,918 square miles and an estimated population of a little over 12 million.
Three religions dominate in the country. These religions are Islam (about 85% of the population), Christianity (8%), and traditional beliefs, which accounts for around 7% of the population. The figure for traditional religions is a bit misleading since the population (both Muslims and Christians) practices a hybrid form of religion. This hybrid religion is a blend of modern Islam and Christianity together with traditional beliefs. Consequently, it is very much possible that traditional religions are the most popular. One such example of the blend is seen when Christians or Muslims wear amulets or charms. Other minor religions include the likes of Hindus, Baha’i, Chinese religious groups, and Buddhists.
Among the Muslims, they are divided into three popular groups namely Sunni, Ahmadiyya, and Shia. Of these three groups, Sunni Muslims make up the biggest percentage of the Muslim population with Ahmadiyya and Shia traditions coming in second and third respectively. Interestingly, unlike other Muslim countries, the women do not always wear the full covering attire or live in purdah (seclusion).
Christian groups are subdivided into several denominations including Roman Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, Anglicans, and other groups. Aside from these major denominations, there is a following of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The most dominant church is the Roman Catholic Church. Most Christians originate from the Coastal or Forest Regions.
In the past, in 2013, religion has been a source of conflict in the town of Nzerekore. The clashes were between the Kpelle people and the Konianke people. The former community is mainly Christian while the latter is mainly Islam. At least 54 people lost their lives in the clashes.
Since the population is mainly Islam, most of the festivals and holidays are Islam-based. These holidays include Eid Al-Fitr, Eid Al-Adha, and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter are also observed. Aside from religious festivals, the country observes Independence Day on October 2 every year.
Other festivities include the Kini Afrika or Festival des Arts de Conte, the Macao Arts Festival, and the Festival International Kora et Cordes de Conakry. Each of these three events is geared toward celebrating and appreciating Guinean talent every year.
The main cuisine of the country is made up of starchy foods such as fou fou, pumpkin pie, fried plantains, and fried sweet potatoes (also known as patates). Other major foods include rice although the ingredients used in the preparation vary from one region to another. Rice is an example of the western include on the culture of Guinea. Other notable foods include boiled mangoes, tamarind drinks, smoked fish, sesame cookies, and many more. The people do not normally eat dessert although they have drinks such as ginger beer, palm wine, and a hibiscus beverage. Main foods are usually served with an array of sauces including footi sauce, maffi hakko Bantura (prepared with sweet potatoes), sauce d'arrachide ou Kansiyé, and other sauces. Since the population is largely Muslim, pork is eaten in select areas only.
In the rural areas, people typically use their hands to eat from a massive serving dish. During mealtimes, there are several cultures and traditions followed. For example, it is impolite to eat while standing up. In addition, a visitor who joins a family during mealtimes has to join in the meal.
Music And Dance
The music industry is varied with most songs being composed in French. Even the national anthem, Liberté (Liberty), is in French and has been that way since independence. Traditionally, large ethnic groups such as djelis (traveling musicians) from the large Mandé community have dominated the music. These traveling singers used to sing national songs and praises for rulers. The musical instruments they used included the banjo, the balafon, the kora, the Dunun, and others. Following the conclusion of World War 2, popular musicians emerged using newer instruments such as the guitar. Popular early bands include the likes of Kebendo Jaz, Balla et ses Balladins, and Keletigui Et Ses Tambourinis.
Unfortunately, due to the extremely low literacy levels of the country, the literature is not that advanced. In fact, the country has some of the highest global illiteracy levels. This illiteracy is despite the fact that primary education is mandatory. For this reason, most of the literature has been passed down through word of mouth from generation to generation. Oral media such as radio and other broadcasts have also been crucial in this regard. However, there are popular academics and authors such as Camara Laye who wrote the “Dark Child,” which is a book about a boy growing up during colonial times.
Social Beliefs And Etiquettes
The etiquette and social beliefs guiding the nation are not that different from those of other African nations. For example, it is customary and polite to greet one another before talking about anything else. Tradition dictates that it is rude to talk about anything else before inquiring about their well-being. A handshake usually accompanies the greeting and, in some cases, a light kiss on the cheeks. During communication, the young should be polite and address their elders with their eyes cast downward. In some cases, a youngster must approach an elder through an intermediary. In addition, people do not compliment a child’s beauty since it is considered bad luck.