Baka people: Life in the Forest
The Baka people, who live in Dja reserve in Cameroon maintain their lives by hunting and gathering in the forests they live. They are known in the Congo as Bayaka and historically have connections with other societies such as Mbuti, Efe, Twa, Bambuti who also live in the forest, all known as pygmy groups because of their height that is 1,5 meters on avarage. However, the term “pygmy” was used by westerners and is not a politically correct name.
The Baka rely on the forest for their basic needs, as they hunt wild game and collect plants, fruits and nuts from the forest. When the resources in one area decrease, they change their camps in order to find new places to look for game and collecting plants. Today they also rely on outside sources, barter certain crops with the objects they need. Thus, they identify themselves as ‘forest peoples’ because of the importance of the forest in their culture, livelihood and history.
The Baka who are
hunter-gatherers live in small bands of 20-30 people. They cook the game meat and eat it all together in the common fire of the camp. Game meat is always shared among the Baka. Sitting around the camp fire is also a way of socializing for community members.
Their intimate connection to the forest is central to their identity and they believe that forests are owned by protected spirits. Jengi is a spirit widespread throughout the Baka region, in a way guardian of the forest. After a successful hunt, as a way to show gratitude, the Baka pray to Jengi with songs and dancing. Young boys are also initiated by Jengi through a ceremony where they have to stay in the forest on their own for a while. Dancing and singing are extremely important for Baka culture. They usually start singing after the dark and sometimes have long performances throughout the night.
The Baka are an egalitarian society with no leaders. They live in groups of 20-30 people and give their decisions mostly together. They know their forest very well and use many herbs for healing.
However, their subsistence and life style is under serious threat these days, as they are facing many challenges. Their forests are invaded by logging companies and they are slowly becoming more sedentary due to the intensive deforestation in the rainforest. Lately, after Dja park was declared a protective area, they have been evacuated from their forests under the name of “conservation” and the Baka have faced serious. Rangers who are funded and trained by WWF have assaulted, robbed and murdered Baka people. They are also exposed to many racist attitudes by the villagers who live nearby the forest whenever they go outside of the forest. Unfortunately today because of all these problems, many Baka live in villages or road sides in poverty.
Creation Myth of the World
A Baka man tells the story of how the world was created and how it all began with a turtle in a small pond. He imitates the turtle through the story and also enriches the story by singing and also asking other people to sing.