Ituri Forest Pygmies | Who Rules the Forest? National Geographic Magazine: End of Pygmy Manhood Ritual | Salate, Congo

Pygmies Whip Each Other at End of Pygmy Manhood Ritual | Salate, Congo

The whipping is more severe on the last day and includes a ceremony where the boys are secluded within a phalanx of men all carrying whips. The men are met halfway thru the village with women carrying whips and a melee ensues trying to control the destiny of the child…the men win…the boy is now a man and cannot be claimed as a child anymore by his mother.  There is also ritual scarification on this day and each boy is paraded, one by one thru the village accompanied by a masked elder and someone to collect the money being thrown at his dancing feet.

From my journal:  The boys put on their skirts and there is a procession of whips and boys out of the forest camp.  They strip leaves as they go and by the time they get to the village, the boys are covered with leaves in the middle of a protective phalanx of whip carrying men.  At the other side of the village, the women have gathered with their whips.  Some of the women have heavy clothing and others (showing their fearlessness) are covered with as little as possible.  It’s the women in the heavy clothing, however, that lead the charge.

Most of these women are from the chief’s family—I guess they are obligated more than others to defend the village.  The other dynamic is that this is symbolic of the women trying to get their boys back…I figure they will lose, because at this stage of the play, these boys have become men.

But the ensuing melee is substantial… these people are beating the crap out of each other.  At one point I look around for Paluku and he is nowhere to be seen… later he comes up and says, “I was so afraid…”

The women whip the men without mercy, wearing heavy clothes, sweat pouring off their faces.  There seems to be a protocol to this drama.  The man whips the woman twice and then stands with his whip in the same position as the boys with the log the previous morning as the woman then gets to whip him twice… wives are whipping husbands and vice versa.

Pygmies are part of the crowd as well…there is a lot of running screaming and periods where six or eight couples are all whipping each other in the middle of the street.  This all continues until they reach the end of the village and the boys are successfully ushered back into the forest by the men.

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