Top > African Study Monographs > ASM Supplementary Issue Back Number > No.25 (1998)

Man and Nature in Central African Forests

Edited by Mitsuo ICHIKAWA

pp. 1-2



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pp. 3-32

Food Sharing among the Aka Hunter-Gatherers in Northeastern Congo

Faculty of Education, Yamaguchi University

   This paper dscribes and analyzes food sharing among tha Aka hunter-gatharers in northeastern Congo, based on quantitative data collected during long-term field research. First, the social connotation of the "possession" of food among the Aka is analized. Like in other hunter-gatherer societies, Aka "possession" of food can be revealed only through the analysis of actual food sharing process. The "ownership" does not mean the exclucive right over the food, but indicates the responsibility for sharing it with orhers. The "owners" of food do not decide whether food is shared or not. Thier concern about food sharing is only how to share it; which parts of food are given to whom. The concept of "ownership" produces the "giver" and "receiver," thus connecting food sharing with the social relationship in the Aka society. Second, informal nature of food sharing is described. The choice of receivers is not determined by the formal social relationship such as kinship, but by "face to face relationship" created in the co-residential group. This may be one of the core characteristics of food sharing in the isolated small group.

Key Words: Aka hunter-gatherers; Food sharing; Ownership; Social relationship; Camp size.

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pp. 33-46

Folk Etiology among the Baka, a Group of Hunter-Gatherers in the African Rainforest

Hiroaki SATO
Hamamatsu University School of Medicine

   This paper addresses the structure of traditional medical belief and knowledge with special reference to etiology among the Baka hunter-gatherers living in the tropical rainforest from northwestern Congo to southeastern Cameroon. A group of the Baka in northwestern Congo has 89 folk illness terms. The illnesses are classified into three groups by the type of cause. The first group consists of 8 illnesses which develop exclusively due to specific causes such as contacts with various pathogenic substances, violation or sorcery. The second group consists of 55 illnesses which develop spontaneously or due to specific causes. The third group consists of 26 illnesses which develop purely spontaneously. In the Baka folk etiology, the naturalistic notion that some natural entities are responsible for the occurrence of illnesses is more predominant than the personalistic notion that some agents, such as sorcerers, evil spirits, and ghosts, cause illnesses. Among various pathogenic substances, animals are major pathogens. Forest animals, whose bodily shapes or behavior look strange or unusual to human beings, seem to provide good materials to the Baka who wish to explain and understand what causes illnesses, an abnormal state in body and mind, without warning. The Baka people think that almost all of their folk illnesses may develop spontaneously too. Their search for pathogenic substances of their illnesses seems neither for the purpose of removing it nor cutting off contacts with it, but for the purpose of seeking specific remedies.

Key Words: Baka hunter-gatherers; Ethnomedicine; Folk etiology; Forest animals; African rainforest.

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pp. 47-84

Diversity of Ritual Spirit Performances among the Baka Pygmies in Southeastern Cameroon

Daisaku TSURU
Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University

   Ritual spirit performances among the Baka of Southeast Cameroon were studied. Through an extenxive survey, characteristics and distribution pattern of the performances were described and classified. The social background of the diversification was also analyzed.
   The kinds and combinations of spirit performances practiced in bands are different among the bands. Such diversity is derived through two processes. (1) Guardianship for organizing spirit rituals is transmitted individually, which generates different combinations of spirit performances practiced in each band. (2) New spirit performances are created by individuals and practiced in the limited number of bands.
   As well as diversification in ritual practices, tendency toward standardization also takes place. Limited versions of new spirit performance are adopted by the Baka. Furthermore, creators of spirit performances often incorporate the elements of existing spirit performance. Through these processes, the performances are eventually satandardized.
   The variety of Baka spirit performance is maintained by a balance between diversification and standardization, which may reflect the present-day Baka need to establish social identity in a transition from the flexible and loosely organized nomadic society to a more sedentarized life in recent years.

Key Words: Baka; Ritual spirit performance; Guardianship; Diversification and Standardization; Band identity; Modernization.

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pp. 85-104

Encounters with the Dead among the Efe and the Balense in the Ituri Forest: Mores and Ethnic Identity Shown by the Dead

Faculty of Humanities, Kyoto Seika University

   The Efe Pygmies and the Balese often encounter the dead, awake as well as in sleep. The dead dwell deep in the forest, and continue their traditional way of life. The dead sometimes teach new knowledge and technology to the living and tell them to keep their traditional way of life. Perhaps in keeping with the wishes of the dead, the Efe and the Balese are reluctant to adopt the westernized life and ideology which local missionaries want to introduce among them. After death, the Efe and the Balese dwell in the forest so that they themselves have no intention to exhaust the forest resources. Therefore, their cosmology including the next life in the forest would better protect the forest than animal and plant conservation projects imposed by outsiders.

Key Words: African Pygmies; Efe; Balese; Cosmology; Ancestor.

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pp. 105-121

The Birds as Indicators of the Invisible World: Ethno-Ornithology of the Mbuti Hunter-Gatherers

Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University

   The relationship of the birds with Mbuti hunter-gatherers is described and analyzed. A total of 115 types of birds were observed in the Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. Vernacular names, practical uses, food and other behavioral restrictions, and folk belief concerning these birds were recorded. While the birds occupy almost a negligible position in the diet and subsistence activities of the Mbuti, they have important meanings in the rituals, folk belief and other aspects of the Mbuti spiritual life. Particularly interesting is the role of birds as the mediators between human society and the invisible world. The birds are believed to convey information on otherwise unaccountable causes of illness, unpredictable distribution of animals and their behavior in the forest, unexpected failure of hunting, sudden visit of a guest, and other events which the Mbuti feel require some kind of explanation.

Key Words: Ituri Forest; Ethno-ornithology; Nomenclature; Practical use; Food avoidance; Folk berief.

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pp. 123-134

Honey and Holidays: The Interactions Mediated by Honey between Efe Hunter-Gatherers and Lese Farmers in the Ituri Forest

Kobe Gakuin University

   In the Ituri Forest of north-eastern Congo, there is a "honey season," every year, usually around July and August. During this time Efe hunter-gatherers move deep into the forest to seek honey. Lese farmers living with the Efe obtain honey usually through exchange with the Efe. Some farmers, however, visit the Efe honey camp in the forest and spend several weeks or months enjyoing the honey collected by the Efe. Lese farmers who go into the forest say it is their "holidays." This paper describes how the Efe and Lese obtain honey, among other exchanges. The dichotomy of the forest and the village has been used to characterize the way of life of Efe hunter-gatherers and Lese farmers. Rather than confined to either the forest or the village, the Efe and the Lese maintain a symbiotic relationships for generations. These partners are a mediator to one's own world. The honey season provides for the farmers a refuge from tensions and conflicts in the village.

Key Words: Honey; Hunter-gatherers; Farmers; Tropical rainforest; Symbiotic relationships.

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pp. 135-148

Plants and Animals Used on Birth and Death of the Ngandu (Bongando) in Central Zaire

Saga University

   The Ngandu, slash-and-burn agriculturists in the Congo Basim, bilieve in the hidden demons of illness and evil powers which threaten their lives. A child warmly blessed by peole may suddenly get cold in death. An adult may die in the evening, though he is full of vitality in the morning. A venomous serpent hiding in a tree hollow may attack a woman engaged in bail-fishing. Various kinds of small animals, tsetse flies and mosquitoes in particular, also may cause fatal diseases to them.
   The Ngandu people prepare traditional medicines for these diseases and fight against them. The wives and mothers go into the forest in search of herbal medicines for her husbands and children suffering from various diseases. The parents secretly bury "medicines" under the road to protect their children from evil spirits. A child suffering from a disease caused by breaking a food taboo is given an enema. In general, younger generation, or children, are carefully protected from evil powers in various ways by their parents.
   Complicated social regulations are imposed on the adults responsible for nurturing and protecting the group. Obligations deriving from marriage and incessant gift exchange between lineages serve to bind different groups, and these are continued, through funeral rituals, even after death. The strong tie between this world and the other cannot be easily lost. These traditional belief and customs are deep-rooted in Ngandu society, maintaining strong ties between generations, between lineages, and between the forest and the Ngandu people.

Key Words: Slash-and-burn agriculturists; Use of animals and plants; Folk medicine; Tropical rain forest.

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pp. 149-177

The Food Cultures of the Shifting Cultivators in Central Africa: The Diversity in Slection of Food Materials

Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University

   This paper sketches out the food culture characteristics among three groups of shifting cultivators in the forest areas of central Africa to investigate the principles of food selection and food diversity. The food cultures in this region commonly combine ball-shaped principal starch food (PSF) and some side dish of sauce with stewed materials. While all the people of three groups conduct cultivation with vegetatively reproductive crops in and around the tropical forest, there is a difference in the materials actually used in their diet. From the food diaries recorded for an entire year, the ratio for each food materials of the principal starchy food and the side dish wis calculated and compared. Food selection in each group is analyzed through the factors of 1)availability, 2)utility and 3)acceptability. While all the three groups show strong preference for maintaining variety in the diet, each group generates the variety in a different way.

Key Words: Food diversity; Congo; Cameroon; Selection of food materials; Shifting cultivators.

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pp. 179-203

Land Use in Shifting Cultivation: The Case of the Bongando (Ngandu) in Central Zaire

Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University

   Land use pattern of the Bongando, shifting cultivators living in central Zaire is studied, using data of remote sensing, land use map, and soil sampling. Cultivation-fallow cycle of the Bongando is not completed within the secondary forest, and the surrounding primary forest is successively cleared. It is because of sedentarization, population growth, and penetration of market economy. However, clear difference in soil fertility cannot be detected between forest and field, i.e. field soil is not extremely depleted by the cultivation. It suggests that by taking appropriate measures such as periodical village movement, tropical rain forest and its soil might be utilized continuously.

Key Words: Tropical rain forest; Shifting cultivation; Forest destruction; Soil deterioration; Remote sensing.

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