Nestled in the dense forest between Lopé and Waka national parks in the Massif du Chaillu mountain range, Makoko is a village that embodies traditional culture in Gabon. The people of Makoko live as far from the modern world as one could get in Gabon. They live from the forest, and are the acknowledge keepers of the secrets of healing with trees.
Like all rural habitants in Gabon, the Babongo pygmies of Makoko wish they had roads and social services more befitting for a country that is developing. For Gabon Boutique, Makoko provides traditional items, such as indigenous torches, red kaolin, and musical instruments. They also provide the bow and arrow (without poison) they use for their daily hunting.
Because of its secluded location and people, Makoko has attracted various film crews, notably the “Tribes” series from BBC. The villagers from Makoko hope to use this medium as a means of promoting their culture and improving living conditions of the village.
Located in the District of Mokeko, in the canton of the Offoué-Aval, Massenguelani (also known as Ramba) is one of the original villages that inspired the creation of Gabon Boutique. A popular destination for tourists, artists, and those seeking spiritual healing, Massenguelani is a village of the Simba-Babongo, pygmies aligned with the Simba ethnic group, known throughout Gabon for their mastery of medicinal properties of the forest.
For Gabon Boutique, Massenguelani is the base of the association Dia-Eniayi (“Come and see for yourself!”) which produces an array of products made from weaved raffia. Massenguelani also produces traditional items such as Okoumé torches, and red and white kaolin, essential for initiation ceremonies into Bwiti-Missoko, Maboundi, and Mabanzi – all branches of the sacred wood, iboga.
For those visiting Lopé National Park, Dia-Eniayi of Massenguelani offers the spectacle of traditional dances (Bwiti-Missoko and Maboundi) and authentic Gabonese food, composed of fresh water fish, bush meat, forest fruits and vegetables, and legumes grown in plantations.
Mouila-Pouvi et Kona
Mouila-Puvi and Kona are located in the Lolo-Wagna canton of the Ogooué-Lolo province, 50 kilometers away from the provincial capital of Koulamoutou. These villages, habited primarily by the Puvi and Nzebi ethnic groups, produce many different items for Gabon Boutique. Products are fabricated by the young and the old, by men and women.
Women are responsible for the production of baskets (paniers et corbeilles) of all sizes. With intricate patterns and naturally dyed, these baskets are popular amongst tourists. They are also sturdy and sought after by those in Libreville who need baskets for plantation work.
Kona is one of the most prolific producer of raffia fabric in Gabon. Men from these villages also supply Gabon Boutique with raffia sacks, hammocks, tam-tams, and other musical instruments.
For the present, Gabon Boutique wants to help Mouila-Puvi and Kona, and other villages in Gabon form cooperatives or associations. We hope that giving existing structures a formal legal statute will help these artists and artisans expand their production and increase revenues.