The Batwa Pygmies

Everyone loves originality, everybody loves excitement, everybody loves authenticity and Uganda prides in possessing the all. Uganda, a hub of over 56 cultures with different activities, beliefs and practices is one wonderful destination worth visiting. This beautiful country is located in Africa and East Africa in particular. It’s surely not known for only its nature, wildlife and mountain gorillas but also the exhilarating culture.

The Batwa Pygmies

One of the most outstanding Cultures in Uganda is The Batwa people, a culture who in the 2002 population census recorded total population of 600 people. They are truly rich in history, fun and having very many activities for their visitors to delight in.

Though The Batwa group of people who are from central Africa remain marginalized and soft spoken, they have managed to preserve their culture a midst this technological advancement error. They are traditionally hunters as well as fruit gatherers, who dwell in the forested areas of Uganda, Eastern DRC and Rwanda.

The History of the Batwa goes back in time. There lived a man whose name was Kihanga, he had three sons namely Katutsi, Katwa and Kahutu. The father gave them a task and when they had finished it, he blessed them according to how responsible they are.

Kahutu was blessed with a hoe and seeds, Katutsi was blessed with his father’s cows and Katwa was given the forest and all that was in it. He was to survive solely on gathering and hunting. So, many generations passed and their descendants have greatly multiplied.

Due to the multiplication of the descendants of Katutsi and Kahutu, what they had couldn’t satisfy, so they encroached Katwa’s forest. These people mounted pressure on the Katwa descendants forcing them out to live landless ON THE fringes of the forest.

In 1991, after designating Bwindi impenetrable forest as a UNESCO world Heritage site, the Batwa were evicted from the forest they had lived for generations, as now they live as squatters in the outskirts of the forest, and were introduced to subsistence farming and commercial farming to enhance their livelihoods.

In history, the original Batwa are those who were staying in the forest as hunters and gatherers, living and practicing their economic and cultural way of life in the mountainous forest areas around Lake Albert, Lake Kivu and in the great lakes region of central Africa. But of late, the Batwa way of life, culture, traditions and spiritual life are at risk.

These groups of people are widely accepted as the inhabitants of the region, they have also been joined by the farmers and pastoralists. The Batwa community can be found in Bwindi National Park, Mgahinga gorilla National Park, Echuya Forest Reserve in Kisoro and Kabale, Ituri Forest of Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and in Burundi.

The Batwa are also known as the ‘’pygmies’’ who are considered uncivilized, because of their hunting and gathering practices, which has made them to be discriminated and marginalized. Traditionally, the Batwa have three types of houses namely the Omuririmbo, the caves and the Ichuro. Then omuririmbo and the caves were the two main houses where the Batwa lived.

However, ichuro was basically meant for resting and storing foods which include meat, honey, sorghum and beans among others. Most interesting, these were temporary grass thatched houses that could accommodate around five people at a time.

Another interesting thing with the Batwa Is that they have a special way of burying the dead. When a Mutwa dies, he or she would be buried in a hut after wrapping the corpse in grass. This burial ceremony would involve cleansing the corps with local hubs such as Omuhanga, Omufumbi among others. The elders would lead the burial ceremony and motivate all the family members to drink herbal medicines as a way of preventing death from claiming for more people.

In accordance to the Batwa community and people, getting pregnant before marriage was highly prohibited. A Mutwa couldn’t marry a non-mutwa. The parent of a Mutwa boy would go to the family of a Mutwa girl after admiring her qualities. During this visit, they would negotiate the dowry that should be paid to the girl’s family.

A number of tourists who have had an encounter with the Batwa community testify of their pride on what they are. The Batwa are contented with their lifestyle and get worried of land grabbers. However, while with this group of the Batwa people, you will be taken through Buniga cultural walk and village visit, the Batwa experience at Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga or Nkuringo sectors, the Batwa trail done in Mgahinga national park and the Batwa authentic cultural experience. All these are very unique and fascinating.

Batwa people have really proved that being authentic and original is worth it all. It has been an exciting encounter for a number of visitors who come to Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks. These groups of people are really nice to be with, and will try as much as possible to make you happy and smile while with them.