*Key Reference. Excerpt from ECOFAC study "Foragers and Rural Development: Ngotto Reserve" by Barry Hewlett: "Previous ECOFAC socio-economic studies on the Ngotto forest reserve (Besse, Bonannée, Hladik) are quite good descriptions of subsistence and forest utilization by various ethnolinguistic groups of farmers, but they do not provide much detail about forest utilization by the various "pygmy" populations (Hladik provides the most information). Previous reports tend to focus on farmers and discuss "pygmies" as a unified group (e.g., Bonannée talks about diversity of subsistence patterns among farmers, but places all pygmies into one group). These reports made errors in describing pygmies because researchers often assumed that all were Aka pygmies, in large part, because they had all read the excellent forest utilization studies on Aka by Bahuchet (e.g., Duhem states that the pygmies in both Ngotto and Bambio are Aka and speak a Bantu language, when, in fact, most are Bofi and speak a Oubanguian language). This preliminary study suggests there is enormous cultural and linguistic diversity of "pygmy" populations in the Ngotto Reserve--they speak different languages, they occupy different ecologies, they have different subsistence patterns (e.g., some farm some do not, some farm deep in forest some farm near village) and, some have traditional trading relationships with farmers while other are "independent." It is critical to clearly understand "pygmy" diversity because these groups represent 25-35% of the population in the Ngotto Reserve and rely heavily upon forest plants and animals..."
Excerpt from "Of Apes and Men: Baka and Bantu Attitudes to Wildlife and the Making of Eco-Goodies and Baddies" by Axel Köhler, Researcher and Lecturer in Social Sciences, Centro de Estudios Superiores de México y Centroamérica – Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas (CESMECA-UNICACH).
Abstract: In this essay particular local attitudes to wildlife are compared
with western representations of such engagement with the natural environ-
ment. The ethnographic focus is on Baka (Pygmies) and their Bantu-speaking
neighbours living side by side in the rainforest of the north-western Republic
of Congo (Brazzaville). Their current attitudes to gorillas and chimpanzees,
both CITES-protected species, seem to confirm western stereotypes of Pygmy
hunter–gatherers living in tune with their environment and caring for it, and
of Bantu farmers as invading the forest with little or no conservation ethic.
How did these moral tales of proto-ecologists versus ‘eco-baddies’ develop
and what is the history of such polarising ideology? How have these ideas
been appropriated and used in environmental discourse, and how do they map
onto current perceptions and attitudes on the ground? Heeding these ques-
tions a specific history of representations is discussed, starting from an as-
sumed Pygmy aboriginality and a Bantu status as late-coming forest
colonisers and leading to a pervasively dichotomous view of their cultures
and socio-ecological relations. A closer, anthropologically informed look at
contemporary Baka and Bantu perceptions and attitudes to wildlife, however brings home the need for historical contexts and in-depth research both into
social and cultural configurations and into situated ecological and economic
knowledges and practices to uncover subtle distinctions within local models
and the complexities of behaviour.
Keywords: Central Africa, Pygmies, rainforest farmers, environmental perception, conservation
Located at p. 409 of Axel Kohler study
Link to preliminary draft paper "The Natural History of Human Food Sharing and
Cooperation: A Review and a New Multi-Individual Approach to the Negotiation of Norms" by Hillard Kaplan & Michael Gurven, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico (April 2001)
*Interesting non-technical overview of Aka culture from a Western perspective
*Key Reference. Excerpt from "African Hunter-Gathererers: Survival, History and the Politics of Identity" by Richard B Lee, University of Toronto and Robert K. Hitchcock, University of Nebraska: "...Abstract: Given the continent’s ongoing crises, African hunter-gathgerers have been remarkably successful at surviving difficult times. They have faced war in Namibia, Angola, and the Congo, genocide in Rwanda, and economic difficulties almost everywhere else. Through the last three decades San, Pygmy, Hadza, Okiek, Mikea, and other foragers
have sought to maintain coherent societies and systems of meaning and identity in the face of great odds, at times aided by sympathetic outsiders. This paper will explore the challenges they have faced and their responses, while atempting to situate these diverse peoples within the broader historical and political currents of the Twentieth century...'
Excerpt from "Utterance overlap and long silence among the Baka Pygmies: Compairson with Bantu farmers and Japanese university students" by Daiji Kimura: African Study Monographs, Kyoto University: "...Abstract: The temporal structure of conversation was studied among the Baka Pygmies in southeastern Cameroon, in comparison with those of the adjacent Bakwele (Bantu farmer), and Japanese university students. A time sampling method was applied to analyze utterance overlap patterns. In Baka conversation, utterance overlap was not used strategically to take conversational turns, but rather a form of behavioral synchronization. Similarly, long silence was not a failure in the turn-taking, nor indication of the termination of a conversation, boundary of a sentence, or politeness, but can be regarded as a “mode of co-presence.” The Baka can co-present without continuous mutual utterance, probably because they live in a “high-context” situation..."
Excerpt from African Study Monographs, Kyoto University website: "...Abstract: The singing and dancing performances called be among the Baka were studied. The singing and dancing can be classified into two categories: one, informal and playful performances participated by women and children, and the other, formal and
dramatic ones directed by men. Three types of performances (zaiko, kpalam, jengi) are described in detail. An analysis is made on Baka participatory behavior and the social relationships embodied in these performances.
*Excerpt from African Study Monographs, Suppl 25 (March 2001) published on University of Kyoto website: "...Abstract: Anthropological and behavioral ecological studies of living hunter-gatherers have flourished since the 1960’s. Researchers have developed and followed a variety of paradigms, each with its own assumptions and objectives, based on the behavior of hunter-gatherer communities. I argue here that in order to evaluate the validity of the use of a
specific hunter-gatherer group for particular paradigmatic purposes, details of the historical and social context of the group are needed. The use of an inappropriate group, as determined by its context, can call into question the conclusions of a study. A method for classifying hunter-gatherer groups according to progressive stages of historical contact and interrelations with agricultural neighbors is proposed. The use of this classification system can aid in analyzing and answering important questions concerning the hunter-gatherer adaptation: what explains immediate return and delayed return systems? Why do hunter-gatherers persist today? Can contemporary hunter-gatherers be
used as valid models or analogues for prehistoric human behavior? The answers to these questions are related to the ultimate question: Why study hunter-gatherers?..."
Excerpt from aegis-eu.org website: "...On a recent journey though the internet, searching for the ways in which the myth of the Pygmy lives on in the virtual world, I came across two seemingly trivial details. The first concerned the recent salvaging by the Academic Film Archive of North America of an ethnographic film from the 1930s about a group of Pygmies building a suspension bridge over a crocodile infested river in the Ituri forest. The second related to the Congo-born artist Augie N'Kele who has taken this same act of construction as the inspiration for a sculpture about ingenuity, perseverance and forgotten heritage. In this paper, I use these two modern instantiations of the myth of the Pygmy to discuss the colonial era film industry that grew up around Camp Putnam and Epulu and the complex patternings of imposition, collection, retrieval and display revealed through the resulting visual representations. Though seemingly trivial, the trope of the swinging Pygmy leads us towards an understanding of a continuing Euro-American mythologic process of ethno-genesis that has been transposed onto Africa, collected as truth, and transformed into the knowledge of the Pygmy..."
Excerpt from e-Review of Tourism Research abstract: "...Pygmies have long been one of the classic images of Otherness. From the moment of their "discovery" in 1870, the very idea of Pygmies has captivated Western audiences, setting in motion a pattern of collection and consumption by a wide range of travellers that has had profound consequences upon our knowledge and understanding of these "mythic" beings. This formation of the myth of the Pygmies begins with the physical and symbolic extraction of the Pygmies from their environment and continues on through a process of bulimic consumption; the object of curious desire is collected, consumed, interpreted and simplified down to key symbols, confirming and strengthening the mythic properties first imposed. By looking at a cross-section of visual representations from the exploration and anthropology of Africa, this paper reveals an obsessive exoticism that has generated the stereotype of the Pygmy as a classic example of the "noble savage". This image has then been reproduced in numerous variations, refined within an ever-massing media of books, films, photographs and recordings of their music. These visual, textual and sonic images of primitive purity form the expectations of the next wave of travellers on their Pygmic tours. Through them, the myth is carried back to the rainforest in a progressive circularity that folds the image back onto its assumed source. At the end of this process are the Pygmies themselves, stuck in a specific loop of hyperreality in which the regurgitation of the myth of the pristine savage continues to frame and distort perceptions of their contemporary cultural realities. Drawing from my own research among the Basua Pygmies of Western Uganda, this paper examines how, through the experience of tourism, they come face to face with the invention of their idealized essence, with what they can and cannot be."
Index of Wheaton College archives, taped interviews (1949-): "...T2 ( 20 minutes). Serving as pastor of a church in Minnesota; Buyse and his wife's work with the North Arkansas Gospel Mission working with young people in the schools and in clubs; joining Africa Inland Mission, ca. 1949; deputation work to raise funds to go to Africa; lack of any orientation program before going to Africa; Buyse's background in optical work during high school and Bible school in Minnesota; working with the pygmies and their "owners" (Babila or Ababua tribe) in Biasiko, Congo; relations between pygmies and their overlords; obstacles to evangelism among the pygmies. T3 ( 63 minutes). Traveling through the forest; pygmy attitudes toward the forest; pygmy church leaders Noah Mungalah (?) and his son Balos Epaineto, African missionaries to the pygmies; their speaking abilities; presentations of the Christian gospel to the pygmy people; building a bridge at Biasiko; pygmy hanging bridges;.."
Excerpt by paper by Raja Sheshadri: "....The major issue in this case study is the competition for the resources of the rainforest of Central Africa and how this competition threatens the unique culture of the Pygmies of Central Africa. I find this topic particularly interesting because as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon, I had personal contact with this mysterious and poorly understood people. I have also witnessed the difficultly the Pygmy have had functioning in "modern" African society and the problems they have when faced with the destruction of their homelands, discrimination and human rights abuses..."
Excerpt from UNHDR 2004 Background Paper for Africa: "...The colonial state and the defining borders, which have been largely inherited in the post-
colonial arrangement defied the age-long identities, which ordered the lives of Africans.Colonial power imprinted new identities and labels. Little attention was paid to the implications of colonial borders for Africans. They negated the realities of African identities and autonomous African perceptions of the world. Asiwaju has made useful anecdotal references, which illustrate the confusions regarding such primordial references of identity among Africans arising out of the colonial border-demarcation activity at the junction of the 19th and 20th
centuries...During the course of the colonial period colonial administrators and missionaries, sometimes through considerations of administrative expediency and conveniency, at other times through evangelical work, and biblical translations in particular, elevated small dialects and narrow local groups to the status of ‘tribes’ or ethnicities. Some ethnologists have also been inordinately keen ‘to discover’ their own tribes, and in this drive ‘tribes’ have been ‘discovered’ which are more appropriately subunits of much larger groups and extended cultures. Thus, the Bari-speaking peoples, i.e. the Mondari,
Fajelu, Kakwa, Bari, Nyangbara of the Southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda have been identified as separate groups when in fact they represent sub-sets of one ethno-linguistic and cultural formation. During the Banda era in Malawi, the Nyanja variety spoken in Malawi was, in order to stress ostensible cultural and state autonomy or separateness, insistently labeled as ciCerwa with an orthography distinct from the Zambian variety. The Gbe-speaking peoples of West Africa, starting from the Aja in Badagry/Nigeria, the Aja in Benin, the Fon in Benin, the Gun in Benin,
the Mina in Benin, the Mina in Togo, the Ewe in Togo and the Ewe in Ghana have
broadly mutually intelligible speech form, and enjoy very proximate cultural patterns and customary usages. In the literature, they are treated as totally different ethnic groups....The same can be said for the groups the German adventurer Schweinfurth gave the name “Pygmies” in 1873. The generic term for this ethno-cultural group is the Baka. In the North of the Gabon they are called the Baka people. In the East they are called the Bakoya people. In the region of Lastoursville, they are called the Bakuyi people. In the hills of Chaillu, they are called the Babongo people. Near Moabi, they are the Barimba people. While they come under these various names they are ethno-culturally essentially the same people...By the third decade of the 20th century, Catholic and Protestant missionaries had orthographically created three distinct written forms as separate languages out of this reality, to demarcate spiritual boundaries and catchment areas. Remarkably, although Trappist Marianhill missionaries
and Jesuits were denominationally both Catholic they constructed ciManyika and Zezuru, both mutually Shona varieties as separate and distinct written languages. It is for these reasons that some have argued that ethnicity is a colonial invention...This latter argument, however, throws the baby out with the dirty bathwater. While colonialism conveniently created ethnic labels for groups which were neither sufficiently distinct from their neighbours nor were regarded as separate or distinct from others by the people themselves, from precolonial times to the present, cultural features like kinship systems, belief systems and religious practices, mythology, languages, cultural value systems and other customary usages have been real. They are the sub-units of culture around which socialization occurs. As historical and societal categories they are hardly
fictitious. Indeed, they characterize the lives and behaviour of most Africans..."
Abstract of article by John R. Campbell: "...This article seeks to assess the impact of development on the lives and livelihoods of pastoralists and hunter-gatherers in Sub-Saharan Africa. It queries the discourses on human rights and on indigenous peoples and whether they accurately describe and address the situation confronting pastoralists and huntergatherers. The importance of access to land for pastoralists is examined and evidence is presented showing how policies have undermined livelihoods. The effect of ‘forced’ and of ‘voluntary’ sedentarization is discussed, and is followed by a review of the situation of contemporary hunter-gatherers. Finally, the article concludes by arguing for the need to move beyond the rhetoric of rights and to better understand how and why policies create and undermine pastoralists and hunter-gatherers..."
Electronic book by John R. Campbell provides further food for thought on the issues of ethnicity, identity and "modernization". Excerpt from WorldCat highlighhts themes relevant to the status of indigenous peoples: "Political economy of identity and affect * Constructing identities in nineteenth-century Colombo * Responding to subordination: identity and change among south Indian Untouchable castes * States of anxiety: cultural identities and development management in East New Britan * Culture, social organisation and Asian identity: difference in urban East Africa * 'An African Railwayman is a Railwayman' ... or the subject of the subject of the subject * Organisation of development as an illness : about the metastasis of good intentions.."
Provides an interesting insight into cultural lenses and personal bias and values that inevitably influence expert interpretations that in turn influence public perceptions and attitudes. Excerpt from New York Review of Books: "...Turnbull's misty-eyed celebration of the Mbuti comes, it must be said, at the expense of the local Bantu farmers, whom he calls "the Negroes," the taller people who inhabit the villages on the edge of the forest. Each Pygmy family has a relationship with one of these Bantu village families, a relationship in which the villagers say they "own" the Pygmies. The different groups of Pygmies in
the Ituri each speak the language of the Bantu with whom they have these relationships, albeit with a distinctive accent of their own that Turnbull thought was a residue of an older Pygmy language. From time to time—at funerals and weddings, and other rites of passage, for example—the Pygmies emerge from the forest to bring meat and honey they have gathered in the forest to their
"owners," who in return provide them with metal goods and the products of cultivation: "rice, beans, groundnuts and manioc, and a few of the tiny bitter tomatoes which blend so well with manioc leaves and groundnuts in the making of sauce." Before Turnbull's work, the leading scholar of Pygmy life was the Austrian Catholic missionary scholar Paul Schebesta, whose account of the
relations between the Pygmies and their Bantu neighbors was, Turnbull argued, distinctly from the Bantu point of view. As Turnbull puts it, Dr. Schebesta gave the impression that the Pygmies were dependent on the Negroes both for food and for metal products and that there was an unbreakable hereditary relationship by which a Pygmy and all his progeny were handed down in a Negro family, from father to son, and bound to it in a form of serfdom, not only hunting but working on plantations, cutting wood and drawing water. None of this was true of the Pygmies that I knew...Because Turnbull lived not in the village but with the Pygmies, joining them in their forest lives away from Bantu surveillance, he saw the relationship entirely differently. For him, as the
anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker puts it in his biography, the Pygmies "only appeared to be oppressed. In fact, he argued, they were play-acting oppression in order to exploit the farmers." And, indeed, reading Turnbull's account of the way the Pygmies talked about their supposed "owners" and their ability to escape more or less whenever they wanted from Bantu supervision, one is easily persuaded of his point of view... In establishing this picture, Turnbull tends to represent the Bantu as dupes of the Pygmies; but the few Bantu observations about the Mbuti he reports, though distinctly condescending, reflect a view
that is otherwise rather close to his own. Isiaka, a Bantu chief, remarks: "They are worthless people. They only come to the village when they want to steal." And villagers generally, according to Turnbull, said, "'They eat us up until we are ready to die'—meaning that the Pygmies take from them but give little in return..."
Map of settlement patterns of the Twa, Sua, Efe and Mbuti peoples.
General information on the Baka peoples of Cameroun, Gabon, Congo and DRC.
Excerpt from Oxford Journals website: "...In this paper, we present a study of genetic variation in sub-Saharan Africa, which is based on published and unpublished data on fast-evolving and slow-evolving polymorphisms of mtDNA and Y chromosome. Our study reveals a striking difference in the genetic structure of food-producer (Bantu and Sudanic speakers) and hunter-gatherer populations (Pygmies, !Kung, and Hadza)... In such a model, the asymmetric gene flow, polyginy, and patrilocality play an important role in differentiating the genetic structure of sub-Saharan populations. The existence of an asymmetric gene flow is supported by the phylogeographic features of mtDNA and Y-chromosome haplogroups found in the two population groups. The role of polyginy and patrilocality is sustained by the evidence of a differential pressure of genetic drift and gene flow on maternal and paternal lineages of food producers and hunter-gatherers that is revealed through the analysis of mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal intrapopulational variation..."
There are 60 languages listed for the Republic of Congo. Although the resource correlates language with area of usage, dialect and language group, it does not disaggregate or otherwise identify the ethnicity of users per se. As such, this resource from the Ethnologue website is most appropriate for ethnologists and specialist researchers.
Excerpt from S. Bauchet report: "...Among all Pygmy groups, the basic socio-economic unit is the camp. The camp provides the basis for the organization of collective activities, sharing and distribution. A camp is usually made up of about 10 huts, a restricted group of people (30 to 70 individuals). The group includes a certain number of closely related men (brothers or cousins) but also their wives' relations and sisters with their husbands. The eldest (father, uncle or elder brother) has moral authority over the others... Average size of Pygmy camps: Mbuti: 12-15 huts w/ 30 adults; Efe: 8 huts w/ fewer than 20 adults;
Aka: 8 huts w/ 12 adults; Baka: 7 huts w/ 14 adults...A variety of relationships link up the different groups with each other. Neighbouring groups meet up periodically, for major collective hunting expeditions, but also for many ceremonies and ritual dances. Conjugal families often visit their relations living in other camps for a few days or even a few months. On such occasions, visitors are involved in the camp's daily life and they continue living as they would in their own camp. This common practice makes for continual fluctuation in any single camp's composition : there is always a family off visiting or another that has come to stay. The choice of spouses in distant camps, and the tradition of "bride service" thus encourages more visiting (a husband makes a long-term visit to his wife's community). Camp mobility is the result of a subtle combination of different causes : food shortage, resources having been exhausted, size of the group, the requirements of visiting, proximity of neighbouring groups, and also social disruption or death. As months go by, communities come together and split up in a perpetual movement of fusion and fission. Hunting plays an essential role in the social organization. First of all because it is an activity that mobilizes the strength of all members of the community, and second because it is aroung hunting that evolve religious activities and the different stages of an individual's social development. There is a high level of interdependence between young people's ability in hunting, their aptitude for marriage and their participation in the big prestigious expeditions to hunt for large mammals (especially elephants). Several rituals surround hunting activities, both propitiatory and expiatory. Great symbolic value is attached to the second most important activity : collecting honey, the life-giving fluid. Collective rituals are carried out before they set out to collect honey the first time in the season (and this is the only gathering activity for which it is the case) ; among the Mbuti of Zaïre, the honey season is characterized by temporary dispersion of the group...
*Recommended reference. Excerpt from FAO article: "... This article describes the life of the central African pygmy people and highlights their relationship with neighbouring farmers as being valuable for the economic, social and sustainable use of the rain forests. It points out that the nomadic lifestyle of the indigenous peoples is potentially compatible with the sustainable exploitation of the forest, often more so than are "sedentarization" programmes. The authors affirm that biological al diversity exists in central Africa because of human habitation and that excluding human beings from large areas of forest will not conserve the present biological al diversity..." (The material for this article is drawn from papers by R.C. Bailey, S Bahuchet, B. Hewlett and M. Dyson,"Conservation of West and central African rainforests", World Bank)
Excerpt: "...Pygmy groups are scattered throughout equatorial Africa, from Cameroon in the west to Zambia in the southeast. In Zaire, there are three main groups of Pygmies: the Tswa in the west, the Twa between Lake Kivu and Lake Tanganyika, and the Mbuti (also referred to as Bambuti or BaMbuti) of the Ituri Forest. According to Schebesta, the author of the earliest reliable reports, only the Mbuti are true Pygmies, i.e., under 150 cm. in height and relatively unmixed with neighboring peoples. The other groups are referred to as "Pygmoids," being highly intermixed with other peoples both physically and culturally (Turnbull 1965A: 159-B). The following summary refers only to the Mbuti Pgymies of the Ituri Forest in Zaire. The Mbuti are located at lat. 0 degrees-3 degrees N and long. 26 degrees-30 degrees E. Their territory is a primary rain forest. The Mbuti have conventionally been divided into three groups, which are distinct from each other linguistically, economically, and geographically. Each of the three groups speaks a different language (which corresponds to the language spoken by neighboring villagers), practices different hunting techniques, and is territorially distinct. The Aka speak the Mangbetu language (Sudanic family), hunt primarily with spears, and live in the north. These spear-hunters have not been extensively studied. The Efe speak the Lese language (Sudanic family), are archers, and are located in the east. The Efe were studied by Schebesta. The Sua speak the Bira language (Bantu branch of the Benue-Congo family), hunt with nets, and live to the south..."
General information about geography, environment, music and dance.
Excerpt: "...Italian NGO Cooperazione Internationale (COOPI) has embarked on a project to improve the socio-cultural image of a group of the minority Batwa people in the Central African Republic...EU-funded project was aimed at reinforcing activities to fight discrimination of the Aka - a sub-group of the Batwa community, commonly referred to as "Pygmies" - in the southwestern province of Lobaye....project has four objectives: to raise awareness and to promote human rights of the Aka; to create a monitoring system of discrimination; to favour participation of Pygmies in public life; and, to promote and spread respect of cultural, linguistic and religious identity of the Pygmies..."
Excerpt: "...Les Pygmées sont considérés comme les descendants de très anciennes populations localisées au paléolithique dans les régions des Grands Lacs: le Rwanda, le Burundi, le Kenya, la Tanzanie, l'Ouganda. Ils descendent tous d'un même ancêtre dont le prototype serait représenté par le spécimen homo sapiens sapiens dit d'OMO I qui lui-même remonte d'après les datations absolues à plus de 130 000 ans. Leur existence est attestée dès la plus haute Antiquité. Pour les Egyptiens de l'époque pharaonique, il ne s'agissait pas de créatures légendaires, mais bien d'hommes à part entière qu'ils prenaient soin de représenter avec toutes leurs caractéristiques ethniques..."
*Recommended introductory reference