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Bonaire’s Traditional Simadan Festival

Simadan Festival is a unique Bonairean cultural event.

From February to the beginning of May, there are special events called Simadan, which happen around Bonaire during the harvest time of maishi chiki (sorghum).

Bonaire's traditional Simadan.

Simadan was born out of the time when farmers harvested their crops.

During this time, many of Bonaire’s farmers, called kunukeros, celebrate the harvest. The harvest can be plentiful in years with rain and not so plentiful in dry years.  Although the harvest is important for these farmers for visitors, there will be opportunities to enjoy a Simadan whether the harvest is good or bad.

The kunukeros, or farmers, helped each other with the harvests.

The tradition began when all the kunukeros would go from farm to farm to help each other with the annual harvest.  To thank all those who contribute, a Simadan Festival was planned for all to enjoy.  The traditional Simadan includes music, dancing, food, and drink.  A very special dance developed, called the Wapa, which is a rhythmic motion forward and backward, performed arm-in-arm in long lines.

There’s special music for Simadan.

The music is unique, using a call-and-response theme. There are three songs that are tied to Simadan:  Dan Simadan, Remailo, and Belua.  The musicians will use a variety of “instruments,” many of which were made from farm implements or other items around the kunuku. The instruments can include the marimba, wiri (guiro), bari (small drum), karko (an empty conch shell), the triangle, guitar, kwarta (a local, four-stringed guitar), and, of course, hand-clapping for percussion.

If you are planning a visit to Bonaire during the harvest time (February to early May), be sure to enjoy a rich-in-culture Simadan.  Many are planned in conjunction with Dia di Rincon–some are small, and some are large.  Simadans are published in the Calendar of Events.

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