The Mbuti is an indigenous pygmy group who lives in the Ituri Forest in Zaire. In doing research for this paper it was found that the Mbuti is referred to as Bambuti quite frequently, however, they are only one of four cultures that make up the Bambuti. Researchers believe that pygmy people have lived in the rainforests of central Africa for more than 6000 years. Mbutis are primarily foragers who hunt or gather most of their food. The culture of the Mbuti or Bambuti is one of egalitarian where there is no defined leader. Conflicts are resolved by community consensus. The Mbuti culture holds the forest in which they live in high esteem. Their belief is that they are one with the forest. They even refer to the forest as “mother” or “father” because it relates to how a mother and father provides for their children. In an effort to gain some understanding about the complex culture of the Mbuti people, the main focus in this short report will be on the Mbuti’s social organization, political organization and gender relationships.
The environment in which the Mbuti people live in plays an important role in their social organization. “Although the Mbuti all lived in a remarkably uniform tropical rain forest environment, half of them were net hunters and the other half archers. The respective social groups reflected adaptation to the differing demand of the hunting technologies of the larger group, which consist of smaller nuclear families.” (Heinder, 1972). The large group of nuclear families worked together to make sure there is enough nets, net handlers, and people to drive game into the nets. During what the Mbuti people called the “honey season”, the group work in smaller nuclear family capacity for net hunting; but larger groups are needed for archery hunters.
The hunting techniques of the net hunters dictated that they live in smaller groups most of the year. Net hunters considered the honey season to be a time with plenty of game for hunting. This time also brought about social pressures and interpersonal antagonism, which justified the formation of the smaller groups. In contrast, archer’s hunting techniques promoted living in smaller groups throughout the year, but for them the honey season was a time of poor game. This required them to form larger cooperative social groups. During honey season social adjustment that met the need of both sides were needed and made (Heinder, 1972).
The overall character of the Mbuti people is good natured and happy. Food and firewood is plentiful, thus only a small portion of their day is spent hunting, gathering wood, or doing other chores. This leaves plenty of time for socializing, singing, and participating in storytelling with other members of their perspective bands. As peaceful people, the Mbuti try to avoid any conflict with outsiders. When unpleasant situations arise they opt to return to the forest, their safe haven.
The Mbuti people move around quite frequently. ...