Culture is defined as the learned and joint figurative structure of principles; judgment and points of view that influence and nature conducts and acumen of people. Aspects of a culture’s way of life have implications on other cultural behavior aspects. This has enhanced efficiency in thought and idea organization leading to an expansion of studies concerning cultures. Whether the culture’s classification is termed as pastoralist, industrialist, forager, agriculturalist or horticulturalist directly influences other cultural conducts comprising of; economic organization, values and beliefs, social organization, political organization, social change, kinship, and gender relations among others. This research paper will be focused towards the influence impacted on other cultural aspects by the modes of primary subsistence of the Mbuti group of people
The Mbuti people also referred to as the Bambuti community is amongst the groups of aboriginal pygmies in the Central African country called Congo. The Mbuti peoples’ language originates from the Nilo-Sahara sub-group of Central Sudan where they are also believed to have originated. In reference to their modes of primary subsistence, the Mbuti group comprise of pygmy gatherers and hunters. Moreover, the Mbuti people are amongst the ancient groups of native people in the Central African region of Congo. In conformity with other gatherers and hunters, the Mbuti people are organized into small sized divisions called bands in the ranges of 15 to 60 people. It is approximated that the Mbuti people constitute a population ranging between 30000 and 40000 people. Furthermore, the Mbuti group is composed of four varied cultures which consist; the Mbuti people who speak the language of the neighboring Bila and the Aka people, who speak the neighboring Mangbetu tribe language.
The third culture is that of the Sua people who speak the language of the neighboring Budu. The last culture type is the Efe people who speak the neighboring Mamvu or Balese language which happen to be Bantu speaking people. Therefore, from the above cultural types it can be postulated that, the name Mbuti is mystifying due to its representation of a variety of cultures found within the Mbuti group as well as a sub- grouping in the central region of Congo.
Ituri forest is the place where the Mbuti group of people of people is found within the Central African tropical forests. High rainfall amounts characterize this area all year round. Short periods of the dry season are experienced in the forest all year round as well as the forest covering a wide area of about 70000 kilometers squared. The forest is characterized as a humid and moist region by geographers. This kind of climate is ideal in attracting wild animal presence due to the ever green grass of the forest. Revelations have it that, animals, plants and humans are killed by the many diseases found within the forest. This massive elimination of life might result to scarcity of food among members of the Mbuti community. Sleeping sickness is the most prevalent ailment in Ituri forest. The disease is usually transmitted to human beings by tse tse flies. Consequently, large mammal use has been greatly hampered within Ituri forest due to the fact that the presence of tse tse flies is so pronounced.
The Mbuti social organizations
As earlier indicated in the research paper, the Mbuti group of people is basically gatherers and hunters.
These people take part in wild fruit gathering as well as hunting of wild animals so as to sustain their subsistence means of life. This has led to the organization of the Mbuti into social groupings so as to assist the community’s undertaking of its pertinent social life activities. The social organization aspect emanates from the sub groupings found within the Mbuti people. The Mbuti community is organized into social units called bands which consist of varied people and families. One such band ranges from 15 to 60 people. A social organization composed in the band constitutes the family setting; from which the interaction of the forest, wife and a husband bring about a child.
Therefore, for a child to be conceived and born the requirement of a spherical womb which is the forest must be considered. Ituri forest plays the role of the main subsistence means of survival since the Mbuti people are gatherers and hunters. The main- food provider is the father among members of the Mbuti community without considering the wild fruits provided by the mother. Thus, hunting is the main method of subsistence and men usually perform the hunting work. Within the set up of a family, the child and the mother do fruit gathering so as to complement the wild meat provided by the family head. In addition, the mother together with the children is obliged to fruit and firewood gathering in the areas nearing their homesteads. On the other hand, the husbands trek to far away distances in the search for animals to hunt.
Moreover, the Mbuti community social organization extends to the bands. Thus, hunting is done as group work by people placed in the same band among the Mbuti people.
This has natured the virtue of sharing among members of the Mbuti community thus; ensuring that every member does not lack food. A band is guided and directed by the band head as well as deciding on the hunting ground and the type of animals to be hunted. After hunting, the band head is responsible in the division of the hunted food thus, ensuring that every family in the band gets a share. Despite, the food being divided equally amongst the families in a band by the head of the band, different family heads conducting the hunt are entitled to a bigger share of the meat. Furthermore, the Mbuti group of people settles from area to the other searching for wild fruits and animals.
Consequently, different- band heads make major decisions and ensure the selection of the settlement place. The decision making is so as to ensure smooth running of life in the new areas of settlement. Equal sharing of the food hunted ensures that no one is hungry within the band. On the other hand, the fruits gathered by the children and women are for the respective families consumption other than being shared out. More importantly, inter-band aspects of food sharing exist so as to ensure that no one band lacks food. The members of the Mbuti community live a nomadic way of life and thus, they migrate from one forest area to another. Consequently, the nomadic aspect of life is environmentally friendly since no overexploitation of the forest takes place.
Gender relations of the Mbuti
The Mbuti people are considered as egalitarian due to the fact every child; women and men access the available resources equally without any discrimination.
The power of women and men is equated as well as group consensus being the order of decision making. Shunning, ridicule, or gossip are the methods used to deal with the trivial disputes that arise among the people. However, serious abominations can either lead to total banishment or thorough beatings. Nonetheless, this kind of ideal society does not out rule the division of roles on the basis of gender. Therefore, men and women have their specified traditional roles. However, reversals of these traditional roles do sometimes occur. A distinctive feature of the Mbuti people is that, rituals ceremonies give their children power that is irrational. The Mbuti language has an interesting aspect in that it’s neither gender-neutral nor does it carry any direct application to gendered terminology as is common with most languages. Apparently, the Mbuti language is portrayed as one that is gender inclusive. Moreover, the language’s primary vocabulary has derivations from designations of the forest. Thus, leading to the forest being regarded as the mother and father, of which gender is designated as a combination of the two. Application and context determines which forest aspect of either being female or male is being intended. For instance, most of the villages among the Mbuti people have their lay out representing the female womb of a human both in design and shape. This is to ensure that when exiting and entering the village, one is reborn symbolically of the forest and of their mother. In many contexts, physical space use in the village is thought to be male, while, in the actual layout, actual space utilization and hut shapes is thought to be female. Therefore, it is a representation of constant sexual interaction, which reflects both birth symbolized by the forest as well as physical, human intercourse.
It’s of great importance to point out that hunting is not a reserve of the men only and, so women do also take part in the hunting process. Similarly, men do also assist in mushroom gathering alongside their women in the forest. In addition, the Mbuti women are free to hold joint discussions together with the men. However, there are instances when these discussions become so heated that tempers flare between the sexes. Gender tension is diffused through the strategy of using tug of wars which comprise of the boys and men on one hand and, girls and women, on the other hand. Should the males begin winning; a man leaves the male side and joins the female side, encouraging them mockingly in a voice that is falsetto. When the reinforced group begins winning, a woman leaves and joins the male side, using a bass voice that is deep to encourage them. The ridicule and fun grows with the continuation of the contest, until hysterical laughter dissolves all the contestants.
The effect of the tug of war is the ridicule of mainly the conflict as well as competitiveness and aggression. Another aspect of gender relations is the upbringing of children by members of the Mbuti community. A special lullaby is developed by the Mbuti mother and sang to the baby while still in the mother’s womb. The lullaby acts a reassurance to the child of the world she or he will be born. The lyrics of the lullaby further contain descriptions of the forest’s goodness and the human environment supportiveness. While the children are growing up, they get to learn the virtue of playing games that are noncompetitive.
This is so as to inculcate in them the need for cooperation in doing various activities. Children who fail to obey and cooperate are slapped and spanked by the parents. As mentioned earlier in the research paper, the Mbuti people employ a variety of quick actions in their conflict settlements. The major strategies comprise of ridicule, laughter and jokes. Every camp in the bands has a clown who employs the use of antics and mime for the purpose of refocusing the conflict to another individual. This ensures the calming down of the involved parties in the conflict.
Kinship of the Mbuti
It is hard to define kinship among the Mbuti community because they refer to the kinship terms of Hawaii. According to these terms, distinction between relatives is made on gender and sex basis. Everyone in the same group of age as the child’s parents is a parent to that child. Furthermore, the child refers to all the people older the parents as grandparents. However, the child has a special affection for the real father and mother but learns from an early age that she or he belongs to the entire Mbuti community. In the same breadth, children in the same age bracket are known by a certain term meaning siblings. Those children who are younger to enter this group name are simply called as children. Actual genealogy tracing is difficult since the Mbuti people claim they are related to every person in the villages. The social security system of the Mbuti people is incredible. This is due to the plurality of grandparents, fathers, mothers, children and siblings which is so effective and powerful as if it were the real biological family. Duffy describes this strong community sense as “there is nothing like childless mothers, no old people who are lonely, and no children solitary without sisters and brothers and no orphans”.
Moreover, the forest is greatly linked to kinship relations of the Mbuti community. The forest is viewed as mother and father, sibling, and lover by the Mbuti people. The core of their whole world is the forest where there is a true relationship interaction. Social system contradictions are expressed by this relationship which has both the incorporation of both exogamy and endogamy. Marriage among the Mbuti people takes place during their teenage years occasioned by the elima ceremony. It is during this ceremony that girls and boys get the opportunity of choosing future partners. The festival is held when the first menstrual cycles are experienced by the girls. The girl is kept in the elima house together with her unmarried friends where they are going to live. Males come from the territories that are neighboring all over after circumcision and they have to fight to gain entry into the elima. This festival does not necessarily result to marriage, but it is during this time the occurrence of sexual intercourse may take place.
Marriage usually occurs 2 to 3 years after the celebration of the elima festival. The common most marriage form is sister exchange. This occurs through the exchange of other females and sisters by men from the other bands to the bands they happen to have close ties. Surprisingly, marriage among the Mbuti people simply means a house of their own was built by a young couple and, hence they are living together. Once this has taken place, the young couple move into akimi (adulthood) from ekimi (youth). However, the final step is when a child is born with positive chances of survival.
In conclusion, the cultural aspects of the Mbuti community’s living modes, is evidenced to have seriously impacted on the other aspects of the Mbuti culture. Therefore, through the study of the modes of primary subsistence of these people, an elaborate classification of the Mbuti group of people has been achieved.