Mbuti of the Ituri Forest
February 11, 2013
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live with none of your possessions? What if you were dropped in the middle a rain forest and had no means of communication or had no technology in your life. Would you be able to survive? As bad as this may sound, this is how some cultures live in the world. They forage off of the land to survive. They must also be mobile, as resources deplete throughout the seasons. Being mobile means owning little to nothing. In today’s changing world we strive to develop economically. The Mbuti tribe of the African rainforest live without most of the commodities that we have today. Living life as the Mbuti would be difficult for us, because they have different spiritual beliefs, economic structure, and is organized socially in a different manner.
The Mbuti tribe resides in Africa. They reside in the Ituri rainforest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,formally known as Zaire. The Ituri tropical rainforest is full of tall and dense trees creating a canopy that allows little to no sunlight to penetrate the forest floor. The Ituri rainforest receives plentiful rainfall and is riddled with moist air, consistent warmer temperatures, and rich soils. Because of these conditions the flora of the forest thrives. The forest is a quiet place, only filled with the sounds of birds, insects, and the animals. “Although the Ituri Forest seems dense and impenetrable to outsiders, the Mbuti are at home in the rainforest and know its paths, valleys, and rivers intimately. They have great endurance and are able to orient themselves and travel long distances quickly and easily. Their skills as quiet, stealthy hunters allow great success at killing animals and birds to provide the needed protein for their diets. They also are wise gatherers of mushrooms, roots, and other vegetation, who know which items are poisonous and should be avoided” ( Suroviak, 1996). The Mbuti tribe is so in touch with the rainforest they live in, that they refer to it as their “mother’ or “father.” They make this reference because the forest is like their parents, being able to provide everything they need for them from food, clothing, and shelter (Bundy, 2011).
The Mbuti are foragers. They live off of what the forest provides. Their needs consist of nets, spears, bows and arrows, huts to sleep in, and loincloths to wear. They spend only a small time hunting and gathering throughout the week. This leaves plenty of time for the Mbuti to relax and socialize with each other. Settlements of Mbuti are usually situated approximately fifty yards of a stream suitable for drinking. Huts are made of bent saplings that form a frame. The frame then gets mongongo leaves tied to the structure to help keep them dry during rain. Leaves or mats serve as beds, and cooking is done just outside of the huts on open fire. The forest just outside of camp usually serves as the latrine (Turnbull & Pulford, n.d).
A Mbuti band is made up of approximately 15 to 60 people. The larger end of this spectrum is usually those bands that hunt with nets, as it requires more body’s to have a successful hunt. In a camp there are several huts, normally occupied by a nuclear family. A nuclear family consists of the mother, father, and their children (Bundy, 2011). “Families are patrilineal, meaning they trace their lineage through the male line to a common male ancestor” (Turnbull & Pulford, n.d). The tribe keeps bands small to avoid conflict, limit the amount of resources needed, and to keep mobile. The tribe must be ready to move at any time. Because they must be mobile, possessions are limited. The Mbuti move to other locations when they run out of resources, are met with confrontation, the smell of their own waste becomes to much, or to join other bands. Moving locations usually occurs every one to three months. Another attribute one would notice instantaneously would be the stature of the Mbuti...
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