5 thoughts on “Proverbe Pygmées sur la Solidarité / Pygmy Proverb on Solidarity

    1. Oh wow… I would like to hear about the conclusion from your thesis on the relationship between Mbuti pygmies and Bantu farming communities. That’s amazing and quite rare to find someone like you.


      1. My dissertation involved a look at Colin Turnbull’s The Forest People, which was based on his fieldwork back in the 1950s, and was a little biased, I felt, in favour of the pygmies. Also all the literature, I think even now, describes the relationship between pygmies and farmers as symbiotic. I thought this a total misuse of a term from the biological domain, and not a little racist. There was some implicit assumption that the pygmies were in some way of inferior competence as people and could not survive without their periodic contact with farmers. Since the farming communities were newcomers into Central Africa, and the pygmies probably indigenous and completely self-sufficient in forest products, this seemed a very clumsy, if not totally false interpretation.

        What interested me about the Mbuti and the farmers was that they devised a means of sharing resources: the Mbuti traded forest products in return for village produce, but it also involved complex social and ritual exchanges whereby a hunter would be adopted by a villager. A hunter’s sons would be initiated according to village rites alongside village boys, thus creating a lasting bond. The Mbuti, of course, could in fact have taken whatever they wanted from the villages and disappeared into the forest. The villagers were often wary of the forest, something the Mbuti used to their advantage. In the past they were known for guerrilla-type raids on villagers’ gardens. From my readings of the anthropological literature, it was not always clear what the Mbuti gained from the relationship. I suspect they quite liked leading their patrons a dance; they also treated time in the village as something of a holiday. Their religious beliefs were/if not now/ very different from the Bantu farmers’.

        In recent times though, I have seen the tragic YouTube videos that show Baka pygmies totally hooked on villager home brew; the villagers do not drink the stuff themselves, but seem to use the pygmies’ dependence on it as a means to exert control over them, getting them to hunt etc.

        The Mbuti and the Baka are of course famous for their extraordinarily complex polyphonic singing – music that is performed to give thanks and to keep the Creator Forest alert to the needs of its children.

        In Rwanda the pygmies are known as Batwa, and were a dwindling population even fifty years ago. But there was a time when the Tutsi could not crown their new king without a Batwa being present. This was to do with the fact that the Batwa were acknowledged as the first occupants of the land, and were thus needed to legitimize the kingship of the newcomer Tutsi.

        Aren’t human beings fascinating – the beliefs, the rituals, the metaphors we devise in order for people of different origins and culture to live alongside each other. It seems to all go awry though, when politicians and big business get involved.


      2. Yes… I agree that human beings are quite fascinating! It is amazing all this knowledge, and all these beliefs, rituals, etc, made or adjusted to live together. How funny that the world seem to get along well without all the politicians and big corporations.


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