Ituri Forest Pygmies | Who Rules the Forest? National Geographic Magazine: Blue Duiker Caught by Pygmies

A Pygmy net hunter captures a blue duiker in a net near a hunting camp deep in the Ituri Forest. A duiker is a small antelope and main source of protein for Pygmies in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

From my journal:    I’m finally getting my act together in this environment.  I can go for days if I have to out of my small backpack.  I’m glad I’ve done a few trips that require these skills.  I have to travel by motorcycle in the wet season trying to dodge rains that could knock you senseless and then try to do digital photography in a 60,000 square KM area where there is only one outlet.  The shocking part of all this is not just that it is working, but that it is all working in such a pleasant way.

From the National Geographic story by Paul Salopek:   Pygmies dislike rain. It is not only the clammy discomfort of moving through a damp forest. Water weakens the hunting nets. Antelope wriggle through the wet weave of liana bark like fish. Musa coils his net. He hulloos his farewell to the other hunters – a sound that is itself watery in the suddenly darkening jungle. 

Darkness is not necessarily feared by the Mbuti. They have a feeling about it. Whatever the forest brings cannot be bad. Sometimes, they sing this song over their dead:

There is darkness upon us;

Darkness is all around,

There is no light.

But it is the darkness of the forest,

So if it really must be,

Even the darkness is good.

Musa fires up a leaf-rolled marijuana joint. For fatigue. He passes it to Mayuma, his wife. She grips a slain duiker by its rear hooves – a small, jewel-like animal. Its dead eyes shine and its hooves are not much bigger than a man’s thumbs.

Smoking, they wait for their children to gather, and Musa holds Mayuma’s gnarled left middle finger in his calloused right hand. A pleasant silence. They will sleep tonight in a small domed hut of mongongo leaves. Such huts are everywhere in the Ituri Forest. They begin to decay into piles of powdery frass almost as soon as they are built. The pygmies have erected them since the time when forest was born. They will continue to do so for as long as the forest lasts.  


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