Photos, texts and audio recordings by Luis Devin
Pygmy Peoples, the African Rainforest Hunter-Gatherers.Baka Pygmies (Cameroon, Gabon and Congo)BaKola-BaGyeli Pygmies (Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea)Bedzan Pygmies (Cameroon)BaKoya Pygmies (Gabon)Aka Pygmies (Central African Rep.)Rainforest & Pygmies (Audio-Photo Gallery)Fieldwork (Audio-Photo Diary)The Forest Has You. Story of an InitiationAbout the Pygmies.org Website
(Cameroon, Gabon and Congo)
(Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea)
(Cameroon)
(Central African Rep.)
Audio-Photo Gallery
Audio-Photo Diary
Story of an Initiation
the Pygmies.org Website
1. Introduction
2. Meaning, origin and use of the word "Pygmy"
3. Table of contents and site sections
4. A note on the horizontal structure of the internal pages
INTRODUCTION
Pygmies.org is a website dedicated to the hunter-gatherer peoples living in Central African rainforests, commonly called Pygmies. The main aim of these pages is to provide an introduction to their cultures and to promote their protection, documenting their richness and showing some of the factors that increasingly threaten their survival.
This website has been created by the Italian anthropologist and writer Luis Devin. It presents photos, music, sounds and other material collected during his fieldwork among the Baka of Cameroon and Gabon and among other pygmy groups in the Western Congo Basin.
A special thank goes to the Baka friends of the author as well as the other forest peoples who made his fieldwork in Central Africa possible over the years, always with great patience and affection, accepting him in their camps and in the extraordinary African rainforest world.
MEANING, ORIGIN AND USE OF THE WORD "PYGMY"
"Pygmy", a term with numerous mythological and ethnographic referents, derives from the Greek word Pygmaîos (via the Latin Pygmaeus), meaning approximately "one cubit high" (slightly less than 50 cm, or 18 inches, the distance from the elbow to the knuckles or fingertips).


Geranomachia (battle between the Pygmies and the cranes)
A large Greek vase (The François Vase) with a depiction of the legendary battle between the Pygmies and the cranes ("geranomachia").
Homer was the first to mention the Pygmies, in the third book of the Iliad, referring to their legendary and eternal battle with the cranes: the geranomachia. Many centuries later (at the time of nineteenth-century explorations), when European explorers encountered African rainforest peoples, particularly small in stature, they thought to find an ethnographic confirmation of the ancient legend's origin. Hence, the arbitrary application of the Greek name of "Pygmies" to peoples who may have no connection – contrary to what is often claimed – with the legends of ancient Greece.

Anyway, when referring to African rainforest hunter-gatherers (as well as to any other people) it is always preferable to use the native name by which they call themselves (Baka, Bakola, etc.). However, we should also note that despite some differences (including the linguistic ones) these groups are characterized by cultural and somatic traits which are very homogeneous and clearly distinct from those of all other Central African peoples, and that there isn't an alternative term for "Pygmies" which can effectively indicate them all. It was therefore decided to freely use the term in the website's text and address, for that and other reasons (including its universal diffusion, the clear and generally shared link with its ethnographic referent, the site's informative purpose, etc..), but always bearing in mind that this term comes from a non-native word, arbitrarily assigned from outside.

Geranomachia (war between Pygmies and cranes)
Another representation of the battle between the Pygmies and the cranes, mentioned by Homer in the third book of the Iliad.
TABLE OF CONTENTS AND SITE SECTIONS

BAKA PYGMIES

This section, which is the main one of the website, illustrates various areas of the culture of the Baka of Cameroon, Gabon and Congo, including hunting, fishing and gathering, material culture, traditional architecture, music and dances, daily life in the rainforest, etc. Plus the male initiation rite to the Spirit of the Forest.

Subsections and pages:
THE FOREST PEOPLE: Introduction to Baka people, Rainforest camps and huts (traditional architecture), Semi-sedentary villages along tracks and forest roads (architecture based on bantu models), Natural environment (tropical rainforest of the Western Congo basin).

DAILY ACTIVITIES: Weaving works (woven plant fiber panniers, baskets and mats), Food preparation (cassava drying and pounding, palm oil, food cooking, etc.), Forest material gathering, Other daily works and activities of the Baka (material culture, making of tools and huts, games, medicine, etc.), Infant care.
ECONOMY: Bow hunting, crossbow hunting and trap hunting, Food search and gathering in the rainforest (caterpillars, termites, wild yams, mushrooms, honey, etc.), Dam fishing in forest rivers and streams, Fishing with nets and pirogues, Forest plantations and subsistence farming (plantains, cassava, peanuts, tobacco, slash and burn method, ect.)
MUSIC & RITUALS: Traditional music and musical instruments, Ritual and participation dances, Water drums, Male initiation rite to the Spirit of the Forest.
SOCIETY: Portraits of Baka women, men and children, Neighboring non-Pygmy peoples (bantu).

* Alternate names: the Baka Pygmies are sometimes referred to as Bibayak Pygmies (name variants: Bibaya, Bebayaga, Bebayaka and Bayaka) or as Bangombe Pygmies, Ngombe, Bambuke, Baka Bambuké, Mbaka, Bakas or Pygmées de l'Est.



RAINFOREST AND PYGMIES

Audio-photo gallery about the African rainforest, the Baka and other Pygmy peoples, with soundscapes of the forest and camps.


BAKOLA-BAGYELI PYGMIES

Section's pages:
Introduction to BaKola-BaGyeli people, Camps and huts in the rainforest and along the tracks, Hunting activities (hunters and hunted animals), Other daily activities (weaving works, food gathering and food preparation, etc.), Traditional music and dances (musical instruments, players and dancers), Portraits of Bakola men, women and children, Natural environment (tropical rainforest of Cameroon).

* Alternate names: the BaKola-BaGyeli Pygmies are sometimes referred to as Bakoya Pygmies (name variants: Koya, Kola, Likoya and Bakuele) or as Gyeli Pygmies (name variants: Gyele, Bagyele, Giele, Bagiele, Bogyel, Bogyeli, Bondjiel, Jele, Bajele, Jeli, Bajeli, Gieli and Bagieli), or as Bako or Bekoe Pygmies.


BEDZAN PYGMIES

Section's pages:
Introduction to Bedzan people, Villages and huts (architecture based on Tikar models), Food preparation (plantains, manioc leaves, corn, etc.), Traditional music and dances (musical instruments, players and dancers), Portraits of Bedzan men and women.

* Alternate names: the Bedzan Pygmies are sometimes referred to as Bedjan Pygmies, Medzan, Bedzans, Bedjans or Medzans, or as Tikar Pygmies or pygmées de la plaine Tikar, in reference to the Tikar people with whom they live in close contact and with whom they share the language.


BAKOYA PYGMIES

Section's pages:
Introduction to BaKoya people, Villages and huts along the tracks (architecture based on BaKota models, etc.), Music and dance (single-skin drums, singers and dancers), Portraits of Bakoya women, Circumcision ceremonies of the BaKota (bantu) with BaKoya Pygmy songs and dances.

* Alternate names: the BaKoya Pygmies are sometimes referred to as Koya, Kola or Bakola Pygmies.


AKA PYGMIES

Section's pages:
Italian concert tour of an Aka Pygmy group (from the rainforest of the Central African Republic), Music and dances(musical instruments, players and dancers), Backstage of the shows and concert rehearsals, Daily activities during the tour, Portraits of Aka men and women.

* Alternate names: the Aka Pygmies are sometimes referred to as Baaka Pygmies (name variants: Bayaka, Bayaga, Yaka, Biaka, Diaka, Akas, Moaka and Nyoyaka), or as Babenzele Pygmies (name variants: Bambenzele, Mbenzele, Ba-Benzele, Babenjele, Benjelle and Ba-Benjellé),or as Beka Pygmies, Pygmées de la Lobaye, Pygmées de Mongoumba or Pygmées de la Sangha.


FIELDWORK

Audio-photographic diary of the author's fieldwork and daily life among the Baka and other Pygmy peoples (BaKola, Bedzan, BaKoya...), with photos and soudscapes. Images of the male initiation rite of the Baka that the author took part in. Fieldwork among other peoples in Central Africa (Fang, Bamiléké, Bamoun, Bamenda, Mankon, Bali, Bafut, BaKota, ecc.).


THE FOREST HAS YOU
Story of an Initiation

(Italian edition: Castelvecchi - LIT Edizioni)

A true story from the heart of Africa, among leaf huts, spirits of the forest and the initiation rites of the Baka Pygmies.
From the fieldwork and life of the author with the Baka.

--> go to the book details page, with the abstract and press review
--> Buy the book from Amazon

A NOTE ON THE HORIZONTAL STRUCTURE OF THE INTERNAL PAGES
Pygmies.org is mostly a horizontal website. Most of the inside pages are, in fact, horizontally structured, in order to give more emphasis and clarity to photographic documents and other content. Therefore those pages have to be scrolled horizontally!

Short multi-language website description.

Peuples pygmées d'Afrique centrale: culture, musique et rituels des chasseurs-cueilleurs de la forêt êquatoriale africaine, communément appelés "Pygmées". Photos, paysages sonores et notes ethnographiques des recherches anthropologiques et ethnomusicologiques au Cameroun et au Gabon. Comprend des images des cérémonies publiques du rite d'initiation des Baka. Galeries de photos avec phrases du livre La forêt s'empare de toi. Histoire d'une initiation, de Luis Devin: une histoire vraie du coeur de l'Afrique, parmi les huttes de feuilles, les esprits de la foreêt et les rites d'initiation des Pygmeées Baka. Comprend des sections dédiées aux Pygmées Baka du Cameroun, du Gabon et du Congo, Pygmées BaKola-BaGyeli du Cameroun et de la Guinée équatoriale, Pygmées Bedzan du Cameroun, Pygmées BaKoya du Gabon, Pygmées Aka de la République centrafricaine et du Congo, etc., et une galerie de photos des recherches sur le terrain en Afrique centrale.
Popoli pigmei dell'Africa centrale: cultura, musica e rituali dei cacciatori-raccoglitori delle foreste africane, comunemente chiamati "Pigmei". Foto, paesaggi sonori e note etnografiche dalle ricerche sul campo antropologiche ed etnomusicologiche dell'autore, in Camerun e Gabon. Immagini delle cerimonie pubbliche del rito d'iniziazione dei Baka. Gallerie fotografiche con frasi dal libro La foresta ti ha. Storia di un'iniziazione (Castelvecchi - LIT Edizioni) di Luis Devin: una storia vera dal cuore dell'Africa, tra capanne di foglie, spiriti della foresta e riti d'iniziazione con i Pigmei Baka. Contiene sezioni dedicate ai Pigmei Baka del Camerun, del Gabon e del Congo, Pigmei BaKola-BaGyeli del Camerun e della Guinea Equatoriale, Pigmei Bedzan del Camerun, Pigmei BaKoya del Gabon, Pigmei Aka della Repubblica Centrafricana e del Congo, ecc., e una fotogallery delle ricerche sul campo in Africa centrale.
Pueblos pigmeos de África Central: cultura, música y rituales de los cazadores-recolectores de la selva tropical africana, comúnmente llamados "Pigmeos". Fotos, paisajes sonoros y notas etnográficas de las investigaciónes de campo antropológicas y etnomusicológicas en Camerún y Gabón. Incluye imágenes de las ceremonias públicas del rito de iniciación Baka. Galerías de fotos con frases del libro La selva te posee. Historia de una iniciación, de Luis Devin: una historia verdadera desde el corazoón de África, entre chozas de hojas, espiíritus de la selva y rituales de iniciacioón con los Pigmeos Baka. Incluye secciones dedicadas a los Pigmeos Baka de Camerún, de Gabón y de Congo, Pigmeos BaKola-BaGyeli de Camerún y de Guinea Ecuatorial, Pigmeos Bedzan de Camerún, Pigmeos BaKoya de Gabón, Pigmeos Aka de República Centroafricana y de Congo, etc., y una fotogalería de los trabajos de campo en África central.
Povos pigmeus da África Central: cultura, música e rituais dos caçadores-recolectores africanos, comumente chamado de "Pigmeus". Fotos, paisagens sonoras e notas etnográficas de trabalho de campo antropológico e etnomusicológico em Camarões e Gabão. Inclui imagens das cerimónias públicas do rito de iniciação Baka. Galerias de fotos com frases do livro A floresta tem você. História de uma iniciação, de Luis Devin: uma história verdadeira do coração da África, entre cabanas de folha, espíritos da floresta e os ritos de iniciação dos Pigmeus Baka. Inclui seções dedicadas Pigmeus Baka dos Camarões, do Gabão e do Congo, Pigmeus BaKola-BaGyeli dos Camarões e Guiné Equatorial, Pigmeus Bedzan dos Camarões, Pigmeus BaKoya do Gabão, Pigmeus Aka da República Centro-Africana e do Congo, etc., e uma galeria de fotos dos trabalhos de campo na África Central.
Pygmäen in Zentralafrika. Kultur, Musik und Riten der afrikanischen Pygmäen, mit Fotos und ethnographische Notizen aus dem Regenwald von Zentralafrika. Enthält Abschnitte über Baka Pygmäen (Kamerun, Gabun und Kongo), BaKola-BaGyeli Pygmäen (Kamerun und Äquatorialguinea), Bedzan Pygmäen (Kamerun), BaKoya Pygmäen (Gabun), Aka Pygmäen (Zentralafrikanische Republik und Kongo), usw., und eine Fotogalerie der Feldarbeiten in Zentralafrika.
Pygmy Peoples, the African Rainforest Hunter-Gatherers.       Page URL: http://www.pygmies.org/
The time in the tropical rainforests of the Western Congo Basin, where the pygmy people live, is 14:29. It's day time.
Every minute, at least 25 hectares (250.000 m²) of forest are destroyed around the world (source: WWF).