|1. Food and material gathering|
expedition in the rainforest.
The Baka Pygmies
(Rainforest of Cameroon, Gabon and Congo)Photos, texts and audio recordings
by Luis Devin
Soundscape: voices in a Baka camp. In the background, insects
and birds of the surrounding rainforest (Baka Pygmies of Cameroon).
A people of hunter-gatherers, Baka Pygmies live in the rainforest of Cameroon, Gabon and Congo, together with various peoples of bantu farmers, with whom they exchange goods and have a problematic symbiotic relationship.
Like other pygmy groups (Bakola, Babongo, Aka, Bambuti, etc.), the Baka are traditionally nomadic, even though they are undergoing a process of sedentariness under the influence of multiple factors. The first of these factors is massive deforestation, which deprives these peoples of the natural (and symbolic) resources essential for their biological and cultural survival.
My field researches among the Baka began about ten years ago in a small camp, in the heart of the African rain forest. There the Baka gave me the opportunity to share many aspects of their traditional life, like the gathering of food, the hunting activities, the fishing, the music, the ritual ceremonies and the night dances of the forest spirits. In time, I struck up a close friendship with various members of the camp, among whom the elderly progenitor (a woman expert on natural medicine and propitiatory musical rites for the hunt) and her children, some fortysomething charismatic pygmy hunters who are known and respected in all the region.
|7. Crossing of a river|
on a pirogue dug out
of the trunk of a tree.
rivers and lakes
Once I had learnt the rudiments of the language and studied the main aspects of their music, I began moving through the rainforest with some Baka friends, looking for the traditional dances and musical instruments of other areas.
During one of those searches I was granted the honor of participating in the secret male initiation rite, a long ceremony that decrees the passage to adulthood, gives special powers to the initiates and lets pygmy boys into some of the crucial secrets of the forest and of their own culture.
|8. Baka girl with filed|
teeth, facial scarifications
and protective amulet
around her neck.
Baka women and girls
In the periods of the year when the Baka live near the bantu villages and along the tracks, they are exploited and despised by their farmer neighbours, who look upon the Pygmies as goods belonging to them.
Victims of racism and exploited in the plantations as very cheap labour, with inadequate diet and many health problems, some Baka groups manage to live a surprisingly serene life, keeping a very strong cultural identity and marking the boundaries between their form of culture and humanity and that of the other Central African peoples. But how long will they succeed in doing so?
|9. Luis Devin with Baka children|
in the Cameroonian rainforest.
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|Introduction on the Baka Pygmies (Central Africa), with photos and ethnographic notes|
(Rainforest of Cameroon, Gabon and Congo).
Materials: 9 photos, 1 audio recording, descriptive notes, texts.
Page URL: http://www.pygmies.org/baka/introduction.asp
The time in the tropical rainforests of the Western Congo Basin, when you accessed this
page, was 07:11 on Sunday, May 26, 2013. For every minute spent on this page, at least
25 hectares (250.000 m²) of forest are destroyed around the world (source: WWF).
Copyright © 1998-2012 Luis Devin. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of texts, images, pictures, music, videos and sounds, without written
permission, is forbidden. Read the full Copyright notice for further details. Photos,
videos and sounds are available for licensing, both for multimedia use and paper
publications. For the terms and conditions, contact the author from the Contact page.
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