Ituri Forest Pygmies | Who Rules the Forest? National Geographic Magazine: Pygmies Play Handmade Flutes

Pygmies play hand made flutes to pass the time in their smokey hunting camp in the Ituri forest in DR Congo. Pygmies are noisy and happy… they stay up late yelling at each other and telling hunting stories… acting out the animals. The semi-nomadic tribe sets up nets to hunt small antelope called duikers. 

From my journal:   It’s been over a week since I went net hunting and as we go from Pygmy camp-to-camp encircling the Bantu village, I am greeted with great enthusiasm from everyone who was on that hunt.  They come running out of their huts yelling, emotional, and I remember a segment Raymond translated from one of the more fervent evening speeches from one of the pygmy chiefs.  He basically said how different the times were… “It used to be, if we saw a white man, we would run away, now we are sharing the same campfire with one.”

From the National Geographic story by Paul Salopek:  Rain forests are light-struck places. This comes as a surprise. Countless books and movies would have us believe otherwise. The world beneath a jungle canopy is neither dim, nor gloomy, nor monochrome. It glows with the light of some alien order – a light so improbable it has a dreamed quality, the way colors in dreams possess actual weight, or create sound, or stop time.

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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