In recent news, Mali has often been depicted negatively due to terrorist attacks and killing of foreign military forces on its lands to protect the people. This Sahel country remains a country worth being visited (in quiet times) with a bunch of singularities making it quite unique. Did you hear about the Antogo fish party?
Once a year, the flood
The Antogo lake is located in eastern Mali, close to Gao, 193 kilometers from Timbuktu, one of the biggest towns in the country. Once a year, a particular fish party takes place in the surroundings. In the past, it used to happen more often in the year before the desertification showed its nose and reduced the size of the Antogo lake. Only once a year then, but what a show!
Basically, thousands of men gather around the Antogo lake, generally in May when it is rather hot in Mali (around 48 degrees). Women cannot participate. At the signal, they all rush into the water to try to catch catfishes with bare hands. For fifteen minutes, it is a mass of humanity, jammed in a narrow space filled up with fishes, that attempts to catch more and more prey.
When it is done, the fishing is over for a year and it is time to make an assessment. All the catfishes caught are brought to Bamba, a close village, where they are equally shared between the people. This tradition is the one of the Dogon people, a Malian ethnic group whose goal is to promote togetherness and brotherhood thanks to the Antogo fish party.
If your steps bring you around the Antogo lake in the next few years, take your time to observe the lake, and if it is in May, ask the people if the fishing party is planned shortly!
Sources: Atlas Obscura, Hachette Livre, département Marabout (2016)