Carnival performances and their political implications underwent
significant transformations in nineteenth- and twentieth-century
Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. By focusing on two periods of colonization,
this article examines carnival as an event that involves a multitude
of meanings and forms of imitation that could imply resistance to
colonialism, but were by no means limited to critique and upheaval.
Colonizers, colonized, and the people mediating and situated between
these overarching categories could ascribe various meanings to specific
performances, thereby underlining the multi-dimensional character of
carnivalesque rituals and their heterogeneous significations. In these
performances, mimicking the colonizers was an active, creative, and
ambiguous undertaking that repeatedly and increasingly challenged
colonial representation. However, the colonial state proved to be far less
controlling and totalizing than is often assumed.