For centuries, traditional religious practices have preserved the sacred forests of this archipelago off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. Now missionaries are muscling in
The 12 traditional priestesses of Orango island gathered in their wide hut in a deserted clearing of ankle-deep vegetation, passing a bowl of orange palm nuts between them.
Like their grandmothers before them, the baloberas, as the priestesses are known, were using their spiritual powers to protect the forests in their part of the Bijagós archipelago in Guinea-Bissau. They were performing the secret opening ceremony for a thicket of palm trees that they had closed up in May.