Pygmy rite of initiation
1. Baka male candidates
for initiation during
a ritual in the large
communal hut.
African Pygmies   > Baka Pygmies   > Music and Rituals

Male Initiation Rite

to the Spirit of the Forest

(Baka Pygmies of Cameroon,
Gabon and Congo)
Photos, texts and audio recordings
by Luis Devin
.Luis Devin - Ai confini del gusto.
Soundscape: sounds of the Baka initiation camp
and surrounding rainforest. In the background, ritual
dance with initiates shouting (Baka Pygmies of Cameroon).
Luis Devin during the rite of initiation of the Baka Pygmies
2. Ritual application of palm oil and coloring
substances collected in the rainforest.
Go to the page: Fieldwork audio-photo gallery
Go to the page: Material gathering in the rainforest
«Here in the belly of the forest, where the elders have brought us to make us into men, we no longer have names, we have no purpose. We are disappearing, but at the same time we can take on any form.
We are like water. We are clay just scooped out of a hole with hands and machete. We are molten metal waiting to be poured into a mould...»

From La foresta ti ha. Storia di un iniziazione (The Forest Has You. Story of an Initiation), by Luis Devin
(Italian edition: Castelvecchi - LIT Edizioni)
Luis Devin with other candidates to the initiation ceremony of the Baka Pygmies
3. Initiates sitting in the large special hut
built for the Baka rite of initiation.
Go to the page: Rainforest camps and leaf huts

Since Baka male initiation is a partially secret rite (occurring in hidden places of the African rainforest), I will publish here only some of the images and sounds concerning the "public" ceremonies.
In fact, I think it is essential to respect the Baka traditions and cultural secrets. After all, they let me be part of a rite which has always been forbidden to foreigners. And even the other African peoples can seldom assist to these ceremonies. Besides, they did not want anything in exchange.
Luis Devin during the Baka Pygmy rite of initiation
4. A rest in the special initiation hut,
waiting the beginning of a public ritual.
The affection and friendship I feel for this people could be more than enough for me to keep the promise not to reveal the secret rites which I made during my initiation experience.

Each photo of the initiation reproduced in this site or in other publications of mine has been taken with permission of my Baka friends, who agreed to make them public. The same is true for the narrative description of the rite's public ceremonies which has been published in my book The Forest Has You. Story of an Initiation (Italian edition: Castelvecchi - LIT Edizioni).
All the other unpublished photos and audio recordings relating to the secret rituals belong to the forest and its people.

Luis Devin
Luis Devin during a public ritual of the Baka Pygmy initiation
5. Public rite with old initiated men and other
candidates to the Baka initiation, in the temporary
forest camp built for the ritual ceremonies.
Luis Devin during a meal in the Baka Pygmy initiation hut
6. Daily meal during the Baka
initiation rite to the Spirit of the Forest.
Go to the page: Food preparation
Luis Devin during a ritual ceremony of the Baka Pygmy initiation rites
7. Ritual ceremony with other
canddidates in the initiation camp.
Baka polyphonic songs for the rite of initiation of the Baka Pygmies
8. Women performing polyphonic songs
for an initiation dance.
Go to the page: Music and musical instruments
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.

Luis Devin and the male initiation rite of the Baka Pygmies (Baka Pygmies of Cameroon, Gabon and Congo).

Photos, texts and audio recordings by Luis Devin.
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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 20:46. Every minute, at least 25 hectares (250.000 m²) of forest are destroyed around the world (source: WWF).

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