Top > African Study Monographs > ASM Supplementary Issue Back Number > No.26 (2001)
African Hunter-Gatherers : Persisting Cultures and Contemporary Problems

Edited by Jiro TANAKA, Mitsuo ICHIKAWA and Daiji KIMURA

pp. 1-8

INTRODUCTION: Persisting Cultures and Contemporary Problems among African Hunter-Gatherers


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pp. 9-14

The Significance of Sedentarization in the Human History

Institute of History and Anthropology, University of Tsukuba

   This paper discusses a basic ecological process of the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer life to sedentary life of food producers in human history. Through examining from an ecological viewpoint the value of starchy seeds, which comprise the most important food resource of both contemporary and prehistoric hunter-gatherers, and the demerits of sedentary life, it is concluded that a food producing sedentary life may have been a second choice of prehistoric hunter-gatherers for coping with the population increase and food crisis which began about ten thousand years ago. It is also suggested that food producing economy may have been a by-product of sedentary life.

Key Words: Sedentary way of life; Starchy seeds; Soil enrichment; Population pressure.

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pp. 15-25

Ethnohistory and Archaeology of the Ju/'hoansi Bushmen

Andrew B. SMITH
Department of Archaelogy, University of Cape Town

   The 'Great Kalahari Debate' which revolved around the degree of isolation of the Ju/'hoansi Bushmen failed to adequately interrogate the Bushmen on what they knew of their own history. A combination of interviews with respected Ju/'hoansi elders and archaeological excavation indicates that those Bushmen living in the Sandveld of north-eastern Namibia, although in contact with Kavango farmers, would use them as a convenient source of hxaro exchange items only when needed. This meant only a limited number of exotic pieces were found in the excavations at the hxaro exchange place of Cho/ana in the Kaudom Reserve, suggesting that the Bushmen retained their independence. By way of contrast, hunters living in small rock shelters on the edge of Tswana settlements around Gaberone in Botswana gradually saw their cultural material being completely replaced by exotic goods and food, indicating encapsulation by the dominant society.

Key Words: Sandveld Bushmen; Kalahari Debate; Encapsulation.

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pp. 27-39

Reconstructing the Recent History of the G/ui and G//ana Bushmen

Masakazu OSAKI
Himeji-Dokkyo University

   The G/ui and the G//ana, the Central Kalahari Bushmen, were said to have had little contact with other ethnic groups, and lived self-sufficiently on traditional hunting and gathering until the 1960's. But they acknowledge that a Tswana man came to the Bushman's land about a century ago and brought agriculture and livestock-farming to the G/ui and the G//ana. He also introduced chiefdom and made the Bushmen pay tribute to the Tswana. Because of this tribute and the fact that some Bushmen were treated as serfs by the Tswana, the Tswana regard all Bushmen as the lowest class even today. In contrast, the G/ui and the G//ana do not recognize themselves as subordinate to the Tswana. Due to egalitarianism that permeates throughout their basic lifestyle, the concept of chiefdom did not truly penetrate their society. Only the chief's family members paid tribute and to most G/ui and G//ana this tribute was just a part of trade.

Key Words: G/ui; G//ana; Tswana; Interethnic relationship; Recent history.

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pp. 41-65

Hunter-Gatherer Studies: The Importance of Context

Nairobi Kenya

   Anthropological and behavioral ecological studies of living hunter-gatherers have flourished since the 1960's. Researchers have developed and followed a variety of paradigms, each with its own assumptions and objectives, based on the behavior of hunter-gatherer communities. I agree here that in order to evaluate the validity of the use of a specific hunter-gatherer group for particular paradigmatic purposes, details of the historical and social context of the group are needed. The use of an inappropriate group, as determined by its context, can call into question the conclusions of a study.
   A method for classifying hunter-gatherer groups according to progressive stages of historical contact and interrelations with agricultural neighbors is proposed. The use of this classification system can aid in analyzing important questions concerning the hunter-gatherer adaptation: what explains immediate return and delayed return systems? Why do hunter-gatherers persist today? Can contemporary hunter-gatherers be used as valid models or analogues for prehistoric human behavior? The answers to these questions are related to the ultimate question: Why study hunter-gatherers?

Key Words: Hunter-gatherers; Classification; Context; Immediate return; Delayed return.

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pp. 67-84

Ju/'hoan Women's Tracking Knowledge and Its Contribution to Their Husbands' Hunting Success

Kalahari Peoples Fund and Texas A & M University
Kalahari Peoples Fund

   1995 fieldwork in the Nyae Nyae area of northeastern Namibia indentified substantial contribution to their husbands' hunting success by Ju/'hoan women. This contribution came from a more acitve use of tracking knowledge than previously reported in anthropological literature on San and other hunter-gatherers. A mixed-gender team composed of an experienced hunter/tracker (Barclay) and an anthropologist/Ju/'hoan translator (Biesele) recorded in detail 1) the events of several collaborative hunting trips with Ju/'hoan husband-wife teams and 2) interview information about the kind and frequency of such collaboration. This team also recorded linguistic and technical details of hunting paraphernalia and techniques hitherto unelaborated in the literature, focusing on snares used by both men and women (to be presented elsewhere). The current paper presents the 1995 findings in the context of relevant information on gender and hunting from other societies. It invites colleagues to share ideas and information on this topic. In particular, it poses the question: does the current observed frequency of spousal cooperation in hunting Nyae Nyae 1)reflect very recent circumstances, or 2)does it, as some Ju/'hoan statements suggest, have substantial time-depth? The conclusion reached is that 1) and 2) are not necessarily opposing propositions, and that further investigation is needed.

Key Words: Africa; San; Indigenous knowledge; Hunting; Tracking; Gender.

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pp. 85-101

Social Relationship Embodied in Singing and Dancing Performances among the Baka

Daisuke BUNDO
Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University

   The singing and dancing performances called be among the Baka were studied. The singing and dancing can be classified into two categories: one, infromal and playful performances participated by women and children, and the other, formal and dramatic ones directed by men. Three types of performances (zaiko, kpalam, jengi) are described in detail. An analysis is made on Baka participatory behavior and the social relationships embodied in these performances.

Key Words: Baka; Singing and dancing performance; Social gathering; Participatory behavior; Social relationship.

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pp. 103-121

Utterance Overlap and Long Silence among the Baka Pygmies:Comparison with Bantu Farmers and Japanese University Students

Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University

   The temporal structure of conversation was studied among the Baka Pygmies in southeastern Cameroon, in comparison with those of the adjacent Bakwele (Bantu farmer), and Japanese university students. A time sampling method was applied to analyze utterance overlap patterns. In Baka conversation, utterance overlap was not used strategically to take conversational turns, but rather a form of behavioral synchronization. Similarly, long silence was not a failure in the turn-taking, nor indication of the termination of a conversation, boundary of a sentence, or politeness, but can be regarded as a "mode of co-presence." The Baka can co-present without continuous mutual utterance, probably because they live in a "high-context" situation.

Key Words: Baka Pygmies; Conversation; Turn-taking; Utterance overlap; Long silence.

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pp. 123-134

The Potential of Edible Wild Yams and Yam-like Plants as a staple Food Resource in the African Tropical Rain Forest

Hiroaki SATO
Hamamatsu University School of Medicine

   Wild edible tuberous plants were assessed as a potentially reliable staple food resource for the Baka forest foragers independent of agriculture in South Cameroon. Using a belt-transect method, the density and biomass of wild yam and yam-like plants were surveyed in the semi-deciduous forest. Seven plant species with edible tubers grew throughout the forest surveyed, while more densely in the parts disturbed by human activity. The total biomass of wild edible tubers in a forest remote from the villages was estimated at more than 5 kg/ha, exceeding the value estimated in previous studies conducted in similar forest environments. The ubiquitousness, the considerably large biomass and the Baka gatherers' knowledge and technology for collecting wild tubers point to wild yam-like plants as one major staple food resouce to support foragers independant of agriculture.

Key Words: African rain forests; Wild yam and yam-like plants; Biomass of wild edible tubers; Baka hunter-gatherers; Foragers independent of agriculture.

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pp. 135-156

The Management of Wild Yam Tubers by the Baka Pygmies in Southern Cameroon


   Wild yams (Dioscorea spp.) are primordial sources of carbohydrates for many hunter-gatherers of African forests. Yams play a key role in the symbolic perception of the forest by the Baka Pygmies of Southern Cameroon. The Baka have elaborated an original form of wild yam exploitation that I have termed "paracultivation". Paracultivation defines a set of technical, social and cultural practices aiming at managing wild resources while keeping them in their natural environment.
   In 1994, I undertook an experimental survey to estimate the effect of paracultivation on survival and growth of yam plants. Preliminary results presented here demonstrate that paracultivation increases the production of tubers without affecting plant survivorship. Furthermore, it allows a better control of the spatial and temporal availability of yam resources by the Baka.
   This study has opened up new perspectives on the evolutionary ecology of tuber-producing tropical forest plants. Paracultivation encourages us to reconsider the interactive process between forest dwellers and their environment.

Key Words: Wild yams; Baka; South Cameroon forest; Paracultivation; Resource management; Ethnoecology.

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pp. 157-168

The Forest World as a Circulation System: The impacts of Mbuti Habitation and Subsistence Activities on the Forest Environment

Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University

   While the dependence of Mbuti hunter-gatherers on the forest is relatively well documented, it has not been made clear how their activities and habitaion influence the forest environment in which they live. The analysis of distribution of food plants and human induced secondary forests in the Ituri Forest of Congo suggests that the forest as a hunter-gatherer habitant may have been improved by the interaction of Mbuti hunters, Bantu and other farmers, plants and animals. Most of the major food plants of the Mbuti are light-demanding trees which grow well in secondary and disturbed vegetation regenerated from abandoned campsites and fields. The food plants also germinate from the discarded food thrown around the campsite. Moreover, large quantities of minerals and organic matters are concentrated to the camp as food and fuels, which, after the consumption, are accumulated also around the campsite in the forms of ashes and human body wastes, thus enriching the soil nutrients in the vicinity of the camp. The Mbuti activities and habitation thus comprise a part of a large recycling system of the forest ecosystem. The implications of such positive human impacts on the forest environment for conservation and development issues are discussed.

Key Words: Forest ecosystem; Human impact; Concentration effect; Recycling system.

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pp. 169-183

Issues, Dilemmas and Prospects on the State Provision of Education to Traditional Hunter-Gatherer Societies of Botswana

Molepolole College of Education, Botswana

   Botswana has embraced the idea of universal provision of basic education to all of its young citizens on the basis of right. This has put a tremendous pressure on the education sector to improve access to schooling. As a result, over one hundred and fifty additional schools built during the period between 1985 and 1995 as part of this effort. However, studies conducted in the latter part of the 1980's and the National Commission on Education point out the fact that about 17% of school going children remain outside school. These children reported as missing from school are the children of the country's Remote Area Dweller (RAD) communities most of whom are the Basarwa, the indigenous minority ethnic hunter-gatherer social groups in Botswana. Basarwa comprise a distinct and heterogeneous socio-cultural group whose economic lifestyle and culture differ from that of the dominant Tswana groups. This socio-cultural dislocation also comes into surface in the classroom and is one of the main causes of Basarwa children's continued stay away from the classroom. The classroom in this case becomes an arena of intercultural conflicts. These conflicts inter alia take the form of exclusion of language, traditions and cultural world-view of the children of minorities in the pedagogic process. Teachers also transport into the classroom a baggage of cultural and personal attitudes which is not supportive to the learning of these children. The study suggests a community based teacher induction process and a teaching approach which will attempt to accommodate both the learners language and cultural world-view in the classroom. This approach follows the empowerment perspectives to teaching and learning where parents have some power and control on what their children learn and the culture, language and experiences of children are central to the classroom teaching and learning process. What takes place in the classroom then becomes a culturally mediated process.

Key Words: Basarwa; Schooling; Language; Culture; Community based approach.

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pp. 185-195

An Educational Project in the Forest: Schooling for the Baka Children in Cameroon

Nobutaka KAMEI
Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University

   A schooling project started by Catholic missionaries for the children of the Baka, the hunter-gatherers living in the tropical forest, was studied in Cameroon. The content and the effects of the project are described and analyzed with a case of a small school built in a settlement. It is a project specially tailored for the Baka children to incorporate them into the educational system by reducing the barriers for the Baka, a minority group in this area. Some episodes observed in the dry season when the Baka pursue a traditional nomadic lifestyle in the forest were indicative of the severest hurdle for the schooling project.

Key Words: Baka; Hunter-gatherers; School education; Missionary; Minority; Nomadic life.

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pp. 197-208

The Influence of Schooling and Relocation on the G/ui pupil Companionship

Hiroyuki AKIYAMA
Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University

   This paper describes the companionship patterns in size and composition of Central San children to explore the influences of relocation and schooling, the two epochal events for children in the last 50 years.
   In the Central Kalahari Game Reserve of Botswana, San children formerly played only with relatives. Especially the elder pupils nowadays often become schoolmates who are not kin. Relocation and schooling brought about children's exposure to nonrelatives. Schoolmate is a new option for San children to make friend with others.

Key Words: Central San; Children; Companionship; Influence of schooling and relocation; Kinship; Age difference.

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pp. 209-235

The Relationship between the Bakola and the Bantu Peoples of the Coastal Regions of Cameroon and Their Perception of Commercial Forest Exploitation

University of Yaounde I, Cameroon

   The relationships between the Bakola Pygmies and the Bantu cultivators of the coastal region of Cameroon differ from one group to another. The relationship appears superficial and limited to economic exchange between the Bakola and the Bassa, Boulou, Bakoko, Mvae, Fang, Evouzok and Yassa, whereas it is based on their culture between the Bakola and the Kwassio speaking groups. In spite of such a variation in their relationships, the Bakola and Bantu groups share the same forest environment which indubitably conditions their everyday life. This paper describe in depth hitherto poorly recorded relationships between the Bakola and the Bantu, and their implications for examining the commercial explotion of the forest, which comprises their major source of life, but which is threatened by large scale logging industries.

Key Words: Inter-ethnic relationship, Bakola Pygmies, Bantu cultivators, Tropical forest, Industrial forest exploitation.

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pp. 237-256

Pygmic Tours

School of Oriental and African Stadies, The University of London

   Among Africa's eastern Pygmies, the history of tourism is longer than that of anthropology, a fact most anthropologists to the Ituri have chosen to ignore. Instead, an ethnography has grown that focuses primarily on the Pygmies relationship with the ecosystem in which they live. The world beyond the rainforest has been excluded from our understanding of their lives. By detailing the extent of Pygmic tourism in four different locations in and around the Ituri, the aim of this paper is to show how this exclusionary practice has led to only a partial understanding of Africa's Pygmies. We are left with a myth of the "forest people," and no adequate way to explain those Pygmies that do not correspond to the myth. They are abandoned in a condition of vagabondage, of passive acceptance of their ultimate fate: extinction by the contamination of the external world. Using the Sua of Uganda as an example of this presumed situation, I describe how, rather than slide into extinction, they actively deal with a world of multiple levels through the navigational skill of reflective ethnicity. They choose to expand their socio-political horizons, rather than shrink into the depths of the forest.

Key Words: Pygmies; Tourism; Authenticity; Vagabondage; Reflective ethnicity.

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pp. 257-280

African Hunter-Gatherers: Survival, History and Politics of Identity

Richard B. LEE
Department of Anthropology,University of Toronto
Department of Anthropology, University of Nebraska

   Given the continent's ongoing crises, African hunter-gatherers have been remarkably successful at surviving difficult times. They have faced war in Namibia, Angola, and the Congo, genocide in Rwanda, and economic difficulties almost everywhere else. Through the last three decades San, Pygmy, Hadza, Okiek, Mikea, and other foragers have sought to maintain coherent societies and systems of meaning and identity in the face of great odds, at times aided by sympathetic outsiders. This paper will explore the challenges they have faced and their responses, while atempting to situate these diverse peoples within the broader historical and political currents of the Twentieth century.

Key Words: History; Bushmen; San; Pygmies; Forager-farmer relations; Khoisan, Identity politics; Indigenism.

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