Once a year, the people of the Dogon rush the sacred Antogo Lake in Mali. In a flurry of activity, the Dogon grab at the water feverishly hoping to snatch a fish.
The lake itself is a rarity in a country comprised mostly of the Sahara desert and the dry steppes of the Sahel, which undoubtedly lends to its importance and sacredness. Although the lake is sacred, it is small and murky, and within minutes the Dogon fisherman empty the lake of all its inhabitants.
Throughout the year, it is illegal to fish in the lake. However, after the ban is lifted, fishermen file into the lake to grab whatever they can during the short-lived Antogo fishing frenzy.
The frenzy occurs during the dry season in Mali, which allows the fish to be easily caught in the shrunken lake. The ritual is strongly based on ancestor worship, and along with other rituals in Dogon culture, women are prohibited from participating.
Although women cannot join in the festivities, legend holds that a young woman discovered the lake and its miraculous fish, starting the chain of ritual fishing in the desert pool. Regardless, the Antogo festival is a spectacle like no other opening day for fishing across the world.
The elders of the Dogon villages decide the date of the fishing frenzy each year but it generally falls in the dry season in the early summer months.
- The Sunday Times: "The Miracle of the Fishes" (September 2006): http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article640124.ece
- BBC: Human Planet: Deserts - Life in the Furnace: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rrd85
- Reportage: Antogo - The Sacred Dogon Fishing Ritual: http://reportage.co.uk/features/antogo-the-sacred-dogon-fishing-ritual/