Mbuti Pygmies

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Mbuti Pygmies

The Mbuti Pygmies are a semi-nomadic/foraging group of people from the Ituri rainforest of the northeastern Congo in central Africa; they inhabit one of the least developed areas in the Ituri. The Mbuti live in the Ituri tropical rainforest of Zaire, a place of consistently warm temperatures and a place filled with dense trees, many different animals, birds and a rich plat life due to the thick canopy of trees and rain keeping the soil rich and moist, which in turn provides much plant life and insects to nourish their bodies with. “The Mbuti spend much of the year hunting and gathering for food and then the rest of the year, they live with nearby farming villagers for whom they provide labor in exchange for outside goods and garden vegetables” (Bonta, 2006); This is how the Mbuti have survived over the years. In this exploratory paper will begin by discussing the Mbuti pygmies and their culture and how these foraging people survive in the Ituri rainforest. It will then discuss the Mbuti beliefs and values, sickness and healing and lastly, social change and how it effects the tribes and their everyday life.

The Mbuti pygmies are foragers. They have great endurance and can orient themselves and travel long distances very easily (Turnbull, 1983), they are very great hunters and knowledgeable gatherers, they can tell what plants are poisonous by sight, and the Mbuti even harvest their own honey. The forest provides them with a great source of food, that they do not have to be gone for days to find food, it only takes hours and they can come back to their camps and enjoy their social time.

The Mbuti are a very close-knit group of families, the tribes are a bit different than other foraging societies, as in the Mbuti society; the women do marry outside of the Mbuti villages with frequency (Mosko, 1987). As foragers, normally the men hunt and the women gather, but in the Mbuti communities, the women may join in on the hunt and the men will help gather plant food, right along side the women. The women and men join in on the same conversations, they interact much like we westerners do. Even raising children, the Mbuti raise their children as mother and father together; they raise them to get along with others, have teamwork and to cherish the forest that takes care of them.

The Mbuti go through their daily lives living it like all human beings should; they believe in taking care of their environment, they treat their environment respectfully. This is something we Americans have taken advantage of. Here in America we currently have an issue with pollution and global warming, something we have greatly contributed to. The United States consists of 4% of the worlds population, the average American produces 864kg of municipal waste annually (3 times that of Italy) and a quarter of all carbon dioxide produced in the world comes form the United States” (Woolf & Brown, 2005). All of our waste is killing the forest that the peaceful Mbuti people live off of.

The Mbuti believe the forest is the core of their being. They believe almost like karma; things will always come back to you; by honoring and taking care of the forest, it will in turn take care of them, and it does pay them back, by providing them with exactly what they need to nourish their bodies and build shelter. The Mbuti look at the forest as a deity in a sense, they ask the forest for help, they give thanks to the forest through their ceremonies, and “Molimos, which is a trumpet and also a ritual inspired by their belief in the forest” (Turnbull, 1983). I truly believe this is why they still after so many years still have an abundance of food and shelter sources left in the rainforest. The only take what they will use and no more, no overindulgence and no waste.

The Mbuti are also known as a very peaceful society, they try and avoid and resolve conflict quickly. They use such tactics as humor, to lighten the mood, to get people...
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