Fête de la Mare: Sacred Marsh Festival of the Malinke People (Guinea, West Africa)

Cappy Phalen

Celebrated primarily by the Malinke people of West Africa, the Fête de la Mare (Pond/Marsh Festival) coincides with the beginning of the rainy season in Guinea’s Haute region. The festival is celebrated in different locations throughout the region, but the most prominent takes place in the village of Baro, the birthplace of Guinea’s current president, Alpha Condé. Guinea’s history, traditionally passed down orally from generation to generation through village historians called griots, upholds that the festival has existed in Guinea since at least 1600. In days preceding the festival, individual sacrifices are made to forest spirits for the promise of secure marriages, healthy births and bountiful harvests.

Traditional garb and colored pagne fabric, ancient (but evolving) dance and drum pulsing bright beneath the fôret sacrée ceiling. Photo by Cappy Phalen
Signals are given. The start is near, and the second group joins the first at the the bank. The crowd around the water’s edge is now so thick that nothing can be seen beyond it but the Kapoks. The whistle is blown. The crowd becomes a muddy explosion in the water. Only the spectators remain at the water’s edge, armed with cellphones and waiting to swarm the first big catches. Photo by Cappy Phalen
Men with spears and traps, women and children with nets. The group glides through the village, clapping and dancing to the rhythm of the djembe, and descends downward to the marsh below.  Photo by Cappy Phalen
The thousand-strong throng arrives to curl around the water’s edge. Photo by Cappy Phalen
A cluster of Kapok trees sits on the hill beside the marsh, a second group of people already dancing within. Photo by Cappy Phalen
Photo by Cappy Phalen
Photo by Cappy Phalen
Photo by Cappy Phalen
Photo by Cappy Phalen
Photo by Cappy Phalen

 

Cappy Phalen is a freelance photojournalist focused on telling stories that emphasize connection between humans and the world around them. Her interest in compassionate symbiosis is the core of her approach to storytelling, and she works to encompass respectful intention in every frame. Cappy is currently documenting the experience of small farmers and laborers across the United States.