Hunter Gatherer Research

Music-making in the bwete ritual

On the ambivalent relationship between Babɔngɔ Pygmies and their neighbours in the Chaillu mountains of Gabon

Hunter Gatherer Research (2016), 2, (4), 437–463.

Abstract

In this paper I examine the relationship between the Babɔngɔ Pygmies of the Chaillu mountains of south-central Gabon, Africa, and their Mitsɔgɔ/Masangu neighbours as it is expressed in rituals and musical performances. I argue that this is an ambivalent relationship that both subordinates yet still includes the Babɔngɔ within the social sphere of their non-Pygmy neighbours. Drawing attention to the Babɔngɔ perspective on this relationship, I highlight that ambivalence also results from the Babɔngɔ belonging to two normative systems. I suggest that the ritual context – both in its mythological and performative aspect – offers an overall and clear perception of the Pygmies/neighbours relationship in the Chaillu mountains. Lastly, a brief comparison is drawn between Babɔngɔ and their neighbours and the relations that occur among other Pygmy groups of Central Africa and their neighbours.

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De Ruyter, Magali