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The Baka Pygmies of Cameroon
A tribe of hunters and gatherers, the Baka Pygmies, found in Cameroon, live together with different types of Bantu farmers, with whom they exchange goods.
With a height of 1.5 meters, Baka is, to put it bluntly, pygmoid and not pygmies. However, in everyday usage, the word “pygmy” is used.
The exact numbers are difficult to know, as a group of nomads, they roam the rainforest taking temporary shelter in areas that offer rich game and natural resources, but estimates range from 5,000 to 28,000 people.
They live in natural forests and use the gifts of nature or nature. Over the years an important partnership has been exchanged between the hunter-gatherer Baka and neighboring Bantu farmers. However, this relationship has been tolerant and marked by hostility. This is due to the contempt and derogatory words that the Bantu describe to their Pygmy neighbors, looking at the Baka as their property, they are persecuted and discriminated against and used in the fields as cheap labor.
One of the most important differences between the Baka tribes and their Bantu friends is the fact that they live their whole lives because of the natural resources that nature has provided for their habitat, the rainforest.
Like other tribes, the Baka are culturally, linguistically and physically different from their Bantu neighbors.
They live in what they call group houses, which are single-family houses made of twigs and leaves and are almost always built by women. After the most flexible frame, thin branches are prepared, recently collected leaves are suitable in the system. After the project is completed, other leaf materials are sometimes added to the dome to make the building thinner and more waterproof. In addition to the mongulus, the Abaka also build other rectangular houses made of leaves or bark, as they do in other species, they only use mud and wood.
Abaka, know the different types of forest foods, animals and the seasons where these things are readily available. Of the various seasons that the pygmy people experience each year, the three-month period of heavy rains is the most important. During this time, when the forest is dense, the Baka leave their permanent villages to go deep into the forest and for several months they wander around gathering food. These men perform the highly sophisticated but dangerous task of providing the herd with prey through hunting and trapping. The women carry their belongings in baskets and follow their husbands.
Types of hunting practiced in the rainforest include bows, poison arrows, bows, spears and traps. Unlike other pygmy cultures, the Baka do not know how to use hunting nets. The wild animals that are killed are various species of monkeys, artiodactyls, rats, etc., which hunt at night. They set traps near the river to hunt crocodiles, which are often killed with spears.
Looking for food in the forest is one of the most important things for the group to survive, gathering yams, fruits, mushrooms, but at other times of the year it is possible to find small animals, such as termites and caterpillars.
Carried in baskets by the women, the produce comes to the camp and is shared by all the families.
Hunting is one of the most important activities, not only for providing food, but also for the symbolic meaning and prestige associated with it. Skilled hunters are highly respected and well thought of, especially if they engage in the most rewarding and important sport: Big Elephant Hunting.
Deforestation today deprives tribes of the natural resources they need to survive. Unfortunately, due to the lack of animals and fewer trips to the forest, today, hunting does not provide the Baka with enough protein from animals, which causes serious nutritional problems, especially for children.
With poor nutrition and health problems, many live a quiet life while maintaining a strong cultural identity and demarcating their culture from that of other forest tribes.
Of all the natural resources that surround the Baka pygmies, they see the rainforest as the most precious energy they encounter.
The common pygmy goat will not leave its home in the forest even if it is exchanged for a modern palace in the city.
They have enough knowledge and understanding of the forest and its medicine, including the healing power of plants and in fact, the guardians of the great natural pharmacy. So their whole lives are occupied with the well-being of their forests.
“We were born and raised in the forest; we do everything in the forest, gathering, hunting and fishing. Now they want us to make our lives?”
Mbeh: Baka guitar
Baka Beyond/Baka Gbine
Music plays a big role in Baka’s life. From an early age he is very interested in his music, as soon as a child can clap his hands he is encouraged to participate in the making of group music. There are traditional songs, informational songs, stories and history of the Baka tribe, and songs for fun. This group music production always helps to strengthen the relationship between people in groups.
Baka’s music is perhaps best described as an explosion of interwoven, fluidly interwoven, melodic rhythms. It’s really amazing and the natural forest makes it all the more interesting.
Inspired by the magical music of the Baka people, British musicians Martin Cradick and Su Hart founded Baka Beyond in 1993 after visiting the tribes.
They recorded the album “Spirit of the Forest” under the name Baka Beyond which brought them international recognition. The band has since evolved into a multi-cultural, dynamic act and has sold over a quarter of a million albums.
He has played at WOMAD in the UK, USA and the Czech Republic and on the Jazz Stage at Glastonbury; Musica Mondial in Sao Paulo, Brazil and many other festivals in the UK, USA, France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal and headline the Vancouver Folk-Roots Festival. Their music is heard on TV, especially in BBC nature programs and has been shortlisted for the BBC Radio 3 World Music audience awards.
Su Hart says, “The wonderful song of the birds that first attracted me, the women gather together before dawn to sing, to point out the animals in the forest and to ensure that the men’s hunts will be successful. Music and dance are used by the Baka for healing, rituals, keeping people. community and fun!
With constant support from Martin and Su, at that time he was being invited to play at local parties, weddings and funerals in Cameroon. After recording their album “Gati Bongo” in 2000, they chose the name “Baka Gbine” (Gbine meaning ‘help’).
The group includes guitarists Pelembir, Mbeh and Zow, percussionist Masekou, two women – Ybunga and Lekeweh, who bring amazing singing to concerts, as well as traditional music.
Baka Gbine is one of the few groups that make sure to restore culture as they do. The proceeds from album sales go back to Baka Pygmies through the UK-based Global Music Exchange – or as Baka calls it, ‘One Heart’.
The ongoing relationship with the Baka group has helped them win land rights and recognition as Cameroonian citizens, as well as funding for their medical center and Music House. All these methods help to protect the Baka culture, the forest environment and the unique lifestyle of the hunter-gatherer.
Roger Harrabin says-
The biggest threat comes from the road leading to the forest that has been planned by the government of Cameroon with funds from the European Union.
The World Bank and the African Development Bank refused to finance the reconstruction.
They said it would speed up deforestation and hunting of endangered species. But the EU gave the money without any environmental assessment.
Steve Gartland, head of the World Wildlife Fund in Cameroon, says the inevitable is happening now.
“Road building programs tend to bring development to forest areas. “As soon as you open up the forest areas, you find that poachers come in, which is causing the extinction of wild animals and deforestation,” he said.
About 60 percent of Cameroon’s forests are already being consumed.
Some companies destroy the forest by bribing their officials to allow only selected mature trees to be cut. Others seem to be playing with the book – knocking down the occasional big tree.
Forest expert Jean Francois Pagot agrees that important species are disappearing because they are not being planted anymore.
“The main reason is the longevity of the trees. Some take two or three hundred years to mature – and there is no timber permit that lasts that long – so the different types of forests are being eroded.”
The Baka are struggling to find alternative meat as poachers have started using the EU road to sell fish caught in the forest.
Another Baka said: “They killed elephants, baboons, baboons, rabbits, buffaloes, deer – all in the reserves.”
European Union (EU) taxpayers are funding wildlife management in the forest and paying for roads that make life easier for poachers.
The EU is now funding anti-poaching training. But hunting wild animals is so rewarding that some cannot resist. Environmentalists say it is a problem caused by EU subsidies. He says aid from Brussels is often mismanaged and ends up hurting people at the bottom – like Mr Baka.
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