The Congo is the home to a nomadic group of hunters-gatherers known as the Mbuti.
The Mbuti are one of the oldest indigenous people of the Congo region of Africa. The Mbuti
is an egalitarian society, and the band is their highest form of socialization. Bands are based on
principles of teamwork and sharing. The bands are composed of about fifteen to sixty families.
The Mbuti reside in the Ituri forest, a tropical rainforest in the northern part of the Congo River
Basin. The forest is named after the Ituri River. The Mbuti have lived in the rainforest for more
than six thousand years. According to Turnbull (1968), “The first recorded reference to
the Mbuti dates back to a story of an expedition to the area by Egyptians around 2250 B.C.
where the Mbuti were referred to as people of the trees.” The Mbuti see the forest as mother and
father and themselves as its children. The Mbuti life cycle consists of birth, puberty, marriage,
and death. Each transition corresponds with the defining child, youth, adult, and elderly age
groups. Mbuti make three very significant transitions in life from childhood which includes
birth, to youth including puberty, to adulthood containing marriage, and finally old age which
eventually leads to death. The roles and duties found within each age group are important
because personal identity is defined by Mbuti’s role in society.
The term BaMbuti refers to all the different cultures within the Ituri forest. The forest region
has rivers and lakes, and also has a high amount of rain. The dry season is short, and lasts one to
two months. The country’s capital and largest city is Kinshasa which is home to six and a half
million people. The Mbuti existence is harsh many Mbuti die before the age of twenty years old
and very few live to the age of forty years old. The Mbuti once roamed the entire county of
Africa but are now mainly found throughout the Ituri rainforest. Culture and traditions are
important elements that have enabled the Mbuti to live and survive for centuries in the Ituri
rainforest. The Mbuti survival is based on kinships, gender relations, beliefs and values. The
Mbuti life is centered in the Ituri forest. The forest is the Mbuti home, the spiritual core, and the
forest is what sustains them. “Effectively, the Mbuti occupy only the dense forest where the
migration of game and mature of vegetation have alike have been unaffected by outside
influence”. (Turnbull, 1965, p 17). To an outsider the forest may seem quiet but according to
Mbuti the forest is always talking (Moraga, 1996).
The Mbuti are primarily hunters and gathers, foraging for food in the forest. The Mbuti have
knowledge about the Ituri forest and the types of food within the forest. The types of foods
collected includes ants, snails, pigs,...