Photos, texts and audio recordings by Luis Devin
African PygmiesBaka 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 Website
(Cameroon, Gabon and Congo)
(Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea)
(Central African Rep.)
Audio-Photo Gallery
Audio-Photo Diary
Story of an Initiation
the 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 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.
"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.

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.
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).


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.).

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.

Aurelio Peccei International Award 2013
Literature for Environment Award - Olona 2012 - 2nd Prize
First Novel Prize - City of Cuneo 2013 - Selection
Italian First Novels Selection at the Festival du Premier Roman de Chambéry 2013

--> download a free excerpt from the book (Italian language)
--> 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 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!

Most of the texts and photo captions on the website's pages have 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:
The time in the tropical rainforests of the Western Congo Basin, where the pygmy people live, is 16:28. It's day time.
Every minute, at least 25 hectares (250.000 m²) of forest are destroyed around the world (source: WWF).