Gathering in the rainforest
1. Food and material gathering
expedition in the rainforest.
Go to the page: Food gathering
African Pygmies   > Baka Pygmies   > The Forest People

Introduction

The Baka Pygmies

(Rainforest of Cameroon, Gabon and Congo)
Photos, texts and audio recordings
by Luis Devin
Luis Devin - La Foresta ti ha
Soundscape: voices in a Baka camp. In the background, insects
and birds of the surrounding rainforest (Baka Pygmies of Cameroon).
Traditional pygmy houses
2. - 3. Baka Pygmy traditional huts.
Go to the page: Rainforest camps and leaves huts
Pygmy dance and hunter with antelope
4. - 5. Baka Pygmy hunter with an antelope and dancer.
Go to the page: Hunting with traps
Go to the page: Baka Pygmy ritual and participation dances
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.
Mat making
6. Baka woman making
a mat by weaving
fibers obtained from
Marantaceae plants.
Go to the page: The weaving of mats,
panniers and baskets

Go to the page: Material gathering
in the rainforest
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.
Pygmy pirogue
7. Crossing of a river
on a pirogue dug out
of the trunk of a tree.
Go to the page: African rainforest
rivers and lakes
Go to the page: Material culture
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.
Teeth filing
8. Baka girl with filed
teeth, facial scarifications
and protective amulet
around her neck.
Go to the page: 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.
The author:
Music anthropologist and writer, he has carried out field research in central Africa, where he lived with the Baka Pygmies and other forest peoples, whose music, rituals and survival strategies he has been studying for more than a decade.

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Introduction on the Baka Pygmies (Central Africa), with photos and ethnographic notes (Rainforest of Cameroon, Gabon and Congo).

Photos, texts and audio recordings by Luis Devin.
Page URL: http://www.pygmies.org/baka/introduction.php

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.


The time in the tropical rainforests of the Western Congo Basin, where the Baka pygmy people live, is 00:50. It's night time. Every minute, at least 25 hectares (250.000 m²) of forest are destroyed around the world (source: WWF).

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Copyright © 1998-2014 Luis Devin. All rights reserved.