Photos, texts and audio recordings by Luis Devin
1. Introduction2. Table of Contents and Site Sections3. A Note on Terminology (meaning, origin and use of the word "Pygmy")4. A Note on the Horizontal Structure of the Internal Pages
Pygmies.org is a website dedicated to the hunter-gatherer peoples living in Central African rainforests, commonly called Pygmies
|This website has been created by the Italian anthropologist and writer Luis Devin. It presents hundreds of photos and other material collected during his fieldwork among the Baka of Cameroon and Gabon and among other pygmy groups in Central Africa. Along with the images (concerning the life and traditional activities of these peoples, the Central African rainforest biodiversity, and the increasingly rapid disappearance of this world), you can find some brief ethnographic descriptions serving as introduction to pygmy cultures or commentary on the photos. Each internal page also includes sound or music recordings relative to the soundscape of the rainforest and pygmy camps.|
The main aim of these pages is, therefore, to provide an introduction to the cultures of pygmy peoples and to promote their protection, documenting their richness and showing some of the factors that increasingly threaten their survival (for more information, visit the About
section of the site).
|A special thank goes to the Baka friends of the author as well as the other forest peoples who made his fieldwork possible over the years, always with great patience and affection, accepting him in their camps and in the extraordinary African rainforest world.|
Regarding the contents and the site structure, the thematic sections currently available are:
- BAKA PYGMIES: this section illustrates various areas of the culture of the Baka of Cameroon, Gabon and Congo, including hunting, fishing and gathering, material culture, music and dances, etc., plus the male initiation rite to the Spirit of the Forest that the author took part in.
--> Go to the BAKA
|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 and crossbow hunting, Trap hunting, Food search and gathering in the rainforest (caterpillars, termites, tubers, mushrooms, etc.), Dam fishing in streams, Net fishing in forest rivers with nets and pirogues, Cultivations and subsistence agriculture (plantains, manioc, peanuts, tobacco, "slash and burn" method, etc.).|
|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).
- Bakola, Bedzan, Bakoya and Aka: section devoted to other pygmy peoples who live in the rainforests of the western Congo Basin, namely the Bakola / Bagyeli, the Bedzan, the Bakoya, and the Aka (the last ones during a concert tour in Italy).
|BAKOLA-BAGYELI PYGMIES section 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).
|BEDZAN PYGMIES section 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.
|BAKOYA PYGMIES section 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.
|AKA PYGMIES (in Italy) section 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.
- FIELDWORK: audio-photographic diary of the author's fieldwork in Central Africa among the Baka and other forest peoples, with photos and soudscapes.
--> Go to the Fieldwork
BEDZAN & BAKOLA PYGMIES (Fieldwork among the Bedzan-Tikar and the BaKola-BaGyeli of Cameroon): Bedzan dances and female vocal groups, Mud huts, BaKola hunters with spears and hunting nets, Traditional dances and recordings of instrumental BaKola music, Huts and paths in the rainforest of Cameroon, Moving on pirogues on forest rivers, etc.
|BAKA PYGMIES (Fieldwork and daily life in the rainforest among the Baka of Cameroon and Gabon): Fishing in rivers with nets and pirogues, Making of plant fiber baskets and bark clothes, Study of pygmy musical instruments, Recording and study of ritual and participation dances, Hunters and rainforest animals hunted with crossbows and traps, Termite gathering, Food preparation, Study of water drums in forest rivers and streams, Baka children and other members of the camps, etc.|
INITIATION (Baka initiation rite to the Spirit of the Forest): Initiation hut, Ritual applications of special substances, Initiation ceremonies (public rituals).
BAKOYA & AKA PYGMIES, and OTHER PEOPLES: BaKoya Pygmies of Gabon and BaKota, Aka Pygmies, Fang, Bamiléké, Bamoun, Bamenda, Mankon, Bali, Bafut, and other peoples and places of Central Africa.
- Luis Devin: link to the author's web site.
- About: pages of information about the Pygmies.org website, with the copyright notice, contacts, site map, etc.
A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY: 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, roughly the distance from the elbow to the knuckles or fingertips).
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 rainforests 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, ecc.). 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.|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.
A NOTE ON THE ENGLISH VERSION OF THE WEBSITE
Regarding texts and photo captions on the website's pages, most of them has been translated from the Italian version. Thank you for any suggestions or reports of errors, for which you can use the email address shown on the contact page
Pygmy Peoples, the African Rainforest Hunter-Gatherers.Page URL: http://www.pygmies.org/
The time in the tropical rainforests of the Western Congo Basin, when you accessed this page, was 15:01 on Saturday, May 25, 2013.
For every minute spent on this page, at least 25 hectares (250.000 m²) of forest are destroyed around the world (source: WWF).
(Cameroon, Gabon and Congo)
(Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea)