Rituals are characteristic of most cultures. They are passed down from generation to generation. Different actions explain why some rituals are sacred while others may not. Traditional Africans used varied rituals to keep things running smoothly, bring people together, and help the community grow.
Fishing is only allowed in this little, sacred lake once a year, during the special ceremony known as Antogo, which takes place in the town of Bamba in the northern area of the Dogon region in Mali. Bamba was built among the rubble at the base of a 500-meter cliff. During the peak of the dry season, everything here except for a single sacred pond full of fish dries up. Antogo, a centuries-old fishing ceremony, is performed annually on the lake, and it is a sight to behold for anybody interested in history.
Even though fishing in the lake is technically illegal every other day of the year, hundreds of men ignore that on the day of Antogo to catch fish with their bare hands. In total, the turmoil lasts for around fifteen minutes. Reports say that the size, scope, and seriousness of the event are just too much to handle.
Legend says that fishing well will bring good luck in many ways, such as a good harvest, a happy marriage, the recovery of sick family members, and more. Men who go through the fishing season without catching anything are considered unlucky for the next 12 months. They won’t find a spouse or have a successful harvest, among other things, in that particular year, and the most they can do is wait for better fortune next year.
The fishing ritual is performed in May, which is traditionally the sixth month of the dry season, but the council of wise men determines the exact day. In Bamba, Saturdays are market days, and on the first three market days of each month, wooden sticks are positioned in the middle of the lake as a signal that the ceremony is drawing near.
On the day of Antogo, a lot of Dogon people from all over Mali gather around the lake. The most important and well-known families from different Dogon communities make up the three largest groups. The groups watch the wise men recite spells and praise gods while remaining mute. Once they have finished speaking, the ritual itself and all the magic that goes along with it start.
After the sound of a gunshot, hundreds of men and children—women are not allowed to take part—jump into the lake while carrying fishing baskets, trying to catch as many fish as possible as quickly as they can.
Even though females are barred from participating in the festivities, folklore has it that a young woman first learned of the lake and its miracle fish. Whatever the case may be, the Antogo event is unlike any other world fishing opener, observers say.