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You can spend a day with the Batwa, the first people of Forest in Southwest Uganda. The Batwa are conservation refugees that were evicted from the Gorilla Parks in Uganda.

No rules, no calendars, and complete and utter freedom… The Batwa People, depend almost entirely on wild food. They don’t raise livestock and don’t grow food either. Often referred to as Bushmen, their lifestyle has not changed much over the past 10,000 years. They continue to live as nomads, and oral traditions influence their life choices.

The closest relatives to the stone-Age people in Uganda can be said to be the pygmoid Batwa and the Bambuti. They live by hunting and gathering and they do not have permanent dwellings. They tend to be semi-sedentary, camping for a time when food can be obtained. The Batwa for example, live by begging from and working for the Bahutu and Batusi. This is probably so because there is no longer much scope for survival by hunting and gathering because of increased population encroachment on gathering grounds. However, they eke out a bare substance. They are ethically related to the pygmies of the Congo, the Ndorobo of Kenya (now diminishing) and the Koikoi and San (Bushmen and Hottentots) of South Africa.

Dwellings

The Bambuti are nomads always on the move from place to place, hunting and gathering. They are said to be cannibals and their average height is about 1.5 meters. They have a light bronze colour and a beautiful complexion. They have the same curly, woolly hair as their Bantu neighbours. Their faces are broad, their nostrils wide and their lips are extraordinarily thick.

Their huts are built in the same model as Bantu huts but are made of leaves, not grass. They are round, very short, and with a small entrance so small and low that they crawl on their hands and knees when entering and getting out. Their huts are temporary due to their nomadic life.

Food

Their diet is basically composed of meat. Often, they supplement it with bananas and sweet potatoes which they obtain by bartering meat for them with Bantu neighbours. Sometimes they do not wait to barter. They can simply invade one’s shamba and gather the produce without seeking the permission of the owner. Their neighbours fear them because of their aggressiveness. The sight of a mwambuti (singular of Bambuti) in one’s shamba may lead to the family of the owner going into temporary hiding.

They obtain their food by hunting and they are very skilled at it. When in the forest hunting, a dozen of them will make less noise than that the animal being tracked. They arm themselves with the weapons best suited for their prey. Their normal weapons are spears, bows, and arrows. Every Mwambuti is armed with a small bow; barbed, poisoned arrows; and a spear with a blade similar to those of the Batwa. When hunting, they stealthily wait by water pools and tracks used bytes game. If they kill big game, like an elephant, the whole colony of them, often as many as one hundred, will build their huts around the carcass of the elephant and eat it until it is finished. It is said that a fully grown elephant can feed a colony of Bambuti for a week or more.

Dressing

Their dress is composed of a belt wound around the waist, with a piece of bark cloth attached to the belt in the middle of the back, brought down between the legs and fixed against the belt front. This type of dress suits both men and women but it is not very common for the Bambuti to put on clothes. They usually go stark naked though, occasionally, some of them may be found with a brass-wire bangle.

Economy

The Bambuti‘s economy is just as simple as their general way of life. They are wanderers by nature with no fixed place of abode. Their chief means of subsistence is meat and the forests where they live abound with elephants, monkeys, lizards and some antelopes. The Bambuti prey on these animals and several others that the forest contains.

As one would expect, the Bambuti have no home industries. Their mode of life is purely subsistence and they do not seem t be troubled by a lack of home comfort. If a Mwambuti can find somewhere to sit and skin to sleep on if he has eaten and drunk he finds nothing to trouble the world for.

Their usual utensils besides skins include; earthware pots (traded or stolen) and weapons. Besides these named utensils, there is no other evidence of what one would call “wealth” among the Bambuti. They seem to be contented with what they have and if it was not for the continuous heavy rains, in their country they may even have dispensed with the hut.

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