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The Pygmies of East Cameroon

The Pygmies of East Cameroon
 
Baka Pygmies, Cameroon

Baka Pygmies, Cameroon
Image CreditsCorinne Staley

Visiting the Baka Land of Pygmies is one of the most enriching cultural experiences one will ever enjoy in Cameroon. Being involved in their socio cultural activities is the best way to have fun through dangers and excitement in a world too different from what anyone in townships have lived through.

INTRODUCING THE PYGMIES

Travelling from Kribi, a a purely touristic coastal town, the pygmy land is a good 5 miles way into the Rain Forest. Usually, there are guides in Kribi to accompany you there. The Baka Pygmies are a group of conservatory people who live in the heart of the Rain Forest. They stubbornly maintain the primitive ancestral ways of life and cultural values from generation to generation. They are however friendly in receiving foreigners, but admit very little or nothing of any change these visitors may try to inspire. These people can also be found in countries sharing borders with Cameroon: Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea.

BEING INVOLVED IN THE FOREST LIFE

The first thing you must do once you reach the pygmy land is visit the village chief to announce your arrival. The only language is the baka language so you will be assisted by an interpreter to communicate. This encounter is usually easy and warm. After settling in, you will be offered a wide range of things you can do to maximize the fun of your stay in the land.

Music and Dance

The pygmies enjoy frequent gatherings for great moments of music and dance in their village. They are naturally great singers. A few of them who have broken away from the group to fit into the cities have made it locally in music. ,
Traditionally, the men play drums, while women dance bare breasts with rattles. As a tourist, you may be willing to dance along with them, dressed in the traditional raffia skirt, bare feet and bare chest. It is even more exciting to watch and learn.

Food gathering and preparation

A stranger in the Baka land may be tempted to think the food is gross when they hear of main meals like caterpillar and turtle soups, but truly, these meals are without doubt appetizing. Snails, fish and turtles are very common but animals are also hunted for food. Also commonly eaten, is wild honey amassed by bees on high trees.
The methods of food preparation remain primitive. The people cook outdoor on the three-stone fire places with wood. Ingredients are natural plants which are ground using flint stones or mortars.

Baka Pygmies, Cameroon

Baka Pygmies, Cameroon
Image Credits:Corinne Staley

Outdoor and Professional Activities

Pygmies are natural hunters, and carvers. They make spears, bows and arrows from tree trunks as hunting weapons. The hunters mostly go out in large groups to set traps for smaller animals, and hunt down bigger ones together. After every catch, the hunters sit down and the team leader shares the meat to them all before they depart to their homes. Hunting is dangerous but mostly fun.

Some others are called Net Hunters. These hunters specialize in catching sea animals such as fish and turtles using nets, and canoes dug from tree trunks. Joining in the canoe ride is mostly exciting on the waters with their turbulent nature of great rushing of waves. You may also take the chance to swim in the calmer parts of the waters. Bathing is generally done and enjoyed this way.

Baka Pygmies, Cameroon

Baka Pygmies, Cameroon
Image Credits: Corinne Staley

There are also wine tappers. They climb incredibly tall palm trees right to the top to get fresh palm wine everyday. Palm wine is white and initially very sweet. The longer it stays, the stronger the alcoholic concentration. Palm wine tappers have been trained over many years to climb these trees. It is not advisable for tourists to try. It is all the same fun watching the process.

More so, you can learn to make baskets with the handful of people producing baskets woven from plant fibres. These baskets are used by women to carry farm produce to their homes. Some of the baskets are sold or offered to tourists as souvenirs to be kept as objects of art.

The women are mostly farmers, but they are more probably found at home than anywhere else. Their primary roles are childbearing, cooking, and housekeeping.

In a nutshell…

Generally, travelling to, and being in the Baka land is mostly fun and exciting. You will encounter so much of the diminishing original African values and traditions, arts and lifestyle, and you will most certainly schedule a second visit.


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