Nestled amid stones in the arid province of Dogon in Mali, at the foot of an astonishing 500-meter-high escarpment, lies a little settlement called Bamba. Everything here is dried as the dry season reaches its climax, leaving just one precious pool of water full of catfish.
Each year an old fishing ritual called Antogo is conducted in the lake, a spectacle worth witnessing. Fishing in the lake is absolutely illegal throughout the year, but Antogo Day is celebrated when hundreds of men plunge into the lake and capture fish with their bare hands. The frenzy lasts for around 15 minutes. The intensity of the moment is extraordinary, as you can experience for yourself by viewing the video below.
In the past, Bamba was covered with beautiful green trees and a lake whose waters were considered holy and inhabited by benevolent spirits supplying loads of fish to the locals. But as time went by, the climate changed, and the land turned itself from a Green Zone to an arid, dry, desolate, stony environment, the little lake remained the final trace of its past wealth.
On Antogo Day, hundreds of Dogons flock from all regions of the nation to Bamba Lake, a body of water the size of an Olympic pool. They swarm around the lake — youngsters, young men, and elderly men — equipped with cone-shaped fishing baskets and various handcrafted gadgets to capture fish.
Women are not permitted to partake in the ceremony since they are deemed unclean owing to their menstrual cycle. The rest of us begin to act out in anticipation of the celebration.
Suddenly 400 guys leap furiously into the water, grabbing whatever they can get their hands on. About 15 minutes later, a shot signals the completion of the rite. All of the collected fish are packed in a leather bag and handed over to Bamba’s eldest man, who guarantees appropriate distribution to all the communities.