The Mbuti Tribe

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Mbuti

Terrence Walker

Mbuti or Bambuti are one of several indigenous pygmy groups in the Congo of Africa. The Mbuti are a nomadic tribe hunters and gathers who live in small temporary camps in the southern and central parts of Africa, specifically in the Ituri rain forest of Zaire. Their population range from twenty to fifty thousand and the average Mbuti adult is no more than four feet, six inches tall. Researchers believe that pygmy peoples have lived in the rainforests of central Africa for more than 6000 years. The Mbuti are often referred to as "tropical forest forager." These forest dwellers have a unique culture, set of values, and lifestyle that are undergoing a transformation. Their adaptation to change may teach other cultures how to cope with radical disruptions to their societies due to the influx of modern society. (Pulford 2011) In many respects, tropical forest foragers represent the opposite of modernity. They possessed only the bare essentials for their livelihoods. They live in isolated groups with ten to twenty-five families in each camp. Today they have assimilated to adopt the language of the neighboring villages with which they have forged an economical and cultural link. “Most Mbuti speak Bira, adopted from the neighboring Bira villages, as well as the regional lingua franca, KiNqwana. This the Fusion of Arabic and indigenous African languages evolved during the slave trade.” (Ojo 13) The Mbuti share the Ituri forest with other groups of “short” nomadic people called the Efe. The Efe occupy the northern and the northeastern parts of the forest. Although they have different in language and hunting strategies, all of these peoples share a core culture. Collectively, the groups of the Ituri are called the Bambuti. Researchers estimate that no more than twenty thousand pure-blooded Bambuti remain in the world. In the twentieth century, the Mbuti have been affected by the deforestation government policies and regional conflicts. “They are specialist at extracting resources from the forest and are experts at hunting game and gathering forest products such as fruits, nuts, and wild honey.” (Diagram Group 74) To set up communities, the Mbuti clear a patch of undergrowth and build small huts made of branches covered with leaves with beds of sticks. After the camp is built, days are spent gathering food and hunting game. The Mbuti are skilled craftsman at making weapons, spears and nets. When foods become scarce they pull up stakes and move on. Present day Mbuti do not live in solitude as their ancestors. Today they trade forest products for iron tools, tobacco, salts and clothes with other neighboring communities. As stated before Mbuti are hunters and gatherers who hunt wild animals and gather wild fruits as a means of their subsistence. This has made this group of people to be organized in social groups that help them carry out this function. In the Mbuti community each camp has about 15 to 60 people. Among the Mbuti community, the father is the main provider of food and the mother provides wild fruits. In this case, the main subsistence method in this community is hunting and the work of hunting is usually performed by men. Within the family unit, the mother and the children gather fruits to complement the meat provided by the father. Children and their mother are supposed to gather firewood and fruits in the areas that are near their homes. The Mbuti hunt as a group. This has helped the Mbuti community to share what they have to ensure each member of the community has something to eat. In a camp there is a leader who directs where they should go to hunt. “Despite the fact that the foods are equally divided to all families by the camp head, the heads of different families who conduct hunting has a right to have a bigger share of their hunts(King 2010).” The Mbuti move from area to another in constant search of game and wild fruit. Even though they live in the forest, the Mbuti have developed...
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