Culture & Customs
If you are seeking to take iboga in a traditional ceremony in Africa, you will most probably end up in Gabon, a sovereign state on the west coast of Central Africa. The capital and largest city is Libreville, where the main international airport is based.
Gabon borders Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, and the Republic of the Congo to the east and south. Iboga is used traditionally in all these countries, but Gabon is the ‘Tibet’ of Africa in the spiritual sense, where the Bwiti culture is found throughout the whole country and where iboga has been used for centuries. Bwiti practioners use the iboga plant in various rituals in order to enable spiritual growth as well as strengthening community bonds as a whole. The plant is also used as a rite of passage, among other reasons such as healing. In small doses it is used as a stimulant during hunting expeditions.
Low population density and abundant natural resources, such as a wealth of petroleum and wood, attracts much foreign private investment making Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite having an exceptionally high GDP for the area, many of the private investments are ambiguous and Gabon’s inhabitants remain generally poor.
Throughout the whole country live some 1.5 million people. Almost all Gabonese are of Bantu origin, though Gabon has at least forty ethnic groups with a diversity of languages and cultures. About 80% of the inhabitants of Gabon speak French. The Babongo pygmies are the originators of the Bwiti religion and the use of iboga, said to have been discovered a thousand years ago. The Fang and Mitsogho peoples are also Bwiti practitioners. Although Christianity, one of the larger religions of the region, has been incorporated into Bwiti by some practitioners, a large part of the Bwiti do not follow this syncretic Bwiti trend. To this day there are still Catholic missionaries who are against Bwiti and its widespread practice throughout Gabon, but the president himself is a Bwiti initiate and iboga is recognized as a cultural heritage that is illegal to export without a permit.