Remembering their roots – the Ibo Island Kueto Siriwala Festival
There is a June Festival on Ibo Island every year that celebrates the time many years ago when Ibo became a trading post. The Kueto Siriwala (cue-to sea-ree-wala) Festival means “to not forget your roots” or “home is where the heart is” and this is exactly what the people of Ibo feel and rejoice once a year.
Many people have still never heard of Ibo Island and when visitors get to its shores, they find what seems to be a ghost town with its crumbling ruins, hints of 17th century mansions and other ancient relics. When they delve into the history of the island they find out that Ibo Island has a past dating back to 1600 when Arabs knew the island.
Home is where the heart is
Ibo became the most important island and trading post in the Quirimbas Archipelago as the Portuguese collected rainwater in huge cisterns which allowed them to farm livestock and grow crops. A Portuguese lord ruled the island and the people traded amber, jet, ivory, Ambergris and turtle shells.
Local people throw their hearts into this annual carnival which involves plenty of dancing, singing, competitions, dhow races and enormous quantities of fresh fruit and seafood to eat. Since 24 June 1773, the very first day of Ibo Island’s inauguration, the festival has followed the same order of merriment which starts the night before to culminate in a huge party on the anniversary itself.
Flags, anthems and fire
In years gone by the festival was supported by the colonial Portuguese government and the governor would arrive personally by plane, followed by the raising of both the national flag and the enthusiastic singing of the national and district anthems. Then there would be speeches and fun activities, all ending at midnight in the Town Square with the lighting of the bonfire, indicating the end of the festival.
Today, local people contribute what they can to the festival as the current government is unable to do so. Ibo Island Lodge plays a noteworthy role in helping the island authorities organise the festival and local schools become accommodation venues for visiting Mozambicans.
Two days later when the festival winds down, people are seen waiting for the tide to go out so that they can leave via the mangrove swamps.