Peoples and Cultures of Africa: The Bambuti of Congo
The Bambuti• The Bambuti people group live in The Democratic Republic Congo (formerly Zaire).
Origins and Populations• There are approximately 20,000 Bambuti pygmies dwelling in the Ituri Forest.• The Bambuti have lived in the Ituri Forest and the Central African rainforests for over 6,000 years.
The Ituri Forest• The Ituri forest is sacred and is the core element of traditional Bambuti life.• The forest is sometimes referred to as their “mother”.• A source of food, clothing, and shelter
History of the Bambuti• The earliest recorded reference to the Bambuti is in the story of an expedition by Egyptians around 2500 B.C.• Were referred to as the “People of the Trees” by the Egyptians.• Were considered mythical creatures until the 1800s.
A Little Bit About the Bambuti…• http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=end screen&v=cix0w7NIt24&NR=1 (2:29 – 4:18)
Lifecycle: Family Size• Individual households are called “endu” and consist of a husband, a wife, and their children.• Families live in bands of approximately 50 people.
Lifecycle: Birth and Life Expectancy• According to a study that took place in 2007, the life expectancy of an Mbuti infant at birth is only 15-16 years.• - Even when an Mbuti ages past 15, their life expectancy is still only 35.
Lifecycle: Birth and Life Expectancy• Communality and interdependence are learned as children.• Children refer to the women of their village as “Ema”.• Children are nursed long after they can walk and talk and are often swapped with children of sisters and close friends.
Lifecycle: Betrothal and Marriage• Marriage takes place shortly after puberty begins.• Mutual affection can play a part in marriage but betrothal is mainly via family members.• Divorce is common.• A typical marriage is monogamous because the number of women is less compared to the number of men.• There is no formal bridal ceremony or bride prize.
Lifecycle: Death• At the death of an individual, the Molimo ritual is carried out.• The dead are buried in huts and are abandoned when the village moves to another area.
Household: Food• The Bambuti diet depends on the rain, which determines hunting and gardening productivity.• Typical crops: Rice, cassava, and sweet potatoes• The pangolin is a delicacy.
Household: Language• Due to the process of aculturization, the Bambuti have lost their original language and have acquired the Bantu dialect.• Lese: Spoken by the Efe• Bila: Dialect influenced by the Bantu
Gender and Labor Roles• Men and women share roles as gatherers of vegetation and hunting, except for hunting with bows and arrows.• Men are responsible for hunting as well as making the traditional cloth.• Women are responsible for building and maintaining the huts, cooking, cleaning, fetching water, and caring for the children.
Beliefs, Taboos, and Superstitions• The Ituri Forest• The giant forest hog• Food taboos• Blood
Customs and Rituals• Molimo Ceremony – The most important ritual in the Bambuti life• Nkumbi Ritual – Rite of passage for boys• Elima Ceremony – Ritual for women• Anjo Ritual – Ritual performed to control the weather and to improve hunting
Material Culture: Styles of Dress• Men wear loincloths.• Traditional cloth is made from the inner bark of vines.• Western influence has increased the use of manufactured fabrics.
Material Culture: Dwellings• The Bambuti live in villages of small round huts called “phrynium huts” made from pliable saplings covered in large phrynium leaves.• The dwellings are abandoned when the village moves on in search of more abundant game and vegetation.• Each new village has easy access to a Bantu village for trading purposes.
Hunting and Cultivation• Hunting only occurs when meat is needed for consumption or for trade with the Bantu.• Hunting is done with bows and arrows and fishing is done with nets.
Politics: Governance• The Bambuti live cooperatively and have no central figure of authority.• Decisions are made by a group of elders.• Decisions are argued over until a resolution is achieved.
Politics: Conflict and Warfare• The Bambuti are a peaceful people and prefer to avoid conflict.• Involved in the occupation of Epulu by Jean-Pierre Bemba and his rebels, “Les Effaceurs” after Mobutu’s reign.
Economics: Income and Trading• Traditionally have sought to live a life free of creating goods for profit as they believe the forest supplies their needs.• Trading takes place with neighboring villages.• Honey and are meat traded in exchange for vegetation.• Meat from the giant forest hog is favored for trading.
Supernatural Beliefs• The Bambuti believe in a greater power which they acknowledge and see around them.• Five interchangeable terms for this force: pepo, keti, boru, roho, and satani
Supernatural: Afterlife• Though there are beliefs of disembodied spirits, there is no certain belief in the afterlife.
Supernatural: Spirits• Muungu: The highest of the forest deities; giver of wealth and goodness• Belief in totemic spirits or sitana – Represent the group’s unity• Nyama Ya Mai – Water spirit; responsible for water accidents• Belief that disembodied spirits dwell in the forest
Religious Ritual: Prayer and Offerings• The Mbuti worship the Ituri Forest, pray to the forest, and give thanks for its protection and its provision.
Reverence and Honor• The Bambuti hold deep reverence for nature, especially the forest that they dwell in.
The Church Among the Bambuti• Though attempts have been made to minister to the Bambuti, little conversion has been accomplished• There has been no Bible translations made in the Bambuti languages.• Scripture distribution is difficult due to the impenetrable nature of the forest.
How to Pray• That Jesus would reveal Himself in a bold way to the Bambuti• That there would be healing and forgiveness for the deep wounds that have been made to the Bambuti people• That the Lord would make a way for Scripture to be distributed