“We are weeping with our knowledge of the forest”

I have been living with the Baka, one of Central Africa’s hunter-gatherer groups, for the last 5 months. As an anthropologist, this form of immersion is common because it enables the documentation of a community’s daily practices, conversations, habits, values, and beliefs in a way that cannot be otherwise achieved.

One day, my closest friend in the village, Mangombe, started speaking of the knowledge of the Baka. He told me about how all the knowledge that the Baka possess is in the forest. The forest is not independent of Baka culture, the two merge into each other and have done since the ancestors of the Baka appeared 250,000 years ago. This means that in order for their knowledge and culture to survive, the forest must remain standing. But today, more than ever before, the forest is suffering: extractive industries are removing timber and minerals, destroying the lives of local people and opening the forest up to wildlife traffickers as they do it.

The Baka describe themselves as wa.beleo (people of the forest) – as Jerome Lewis articulately describes, a Baka person “loves the forest as he loves his own body”. They are not against using the forest, in fact they believe that Komba made the forest for the Baka to hunt, forage, and fish, but as long as it is shared. Private European or Chinese companies excessively taking from the forest to bolster personal bank balances abroad is regarded as unacceptable because it is not sharing.

Whilst such concerns are important to promote for the human rights of the Baka, they also represent the most powerful ways to stop the climate and ecological crises. The human-nature relations propagated by capitalist societies is one of separation and monetisation, and has produced a world in chaos. Indigenous notions of human-nature connectedness, where biological diversity and cultural diversity cannot be divided, has successfully nurtured the biosphere for hundreds of thousands of years. The ExCiteS group has been collaborating with the Baka and other Central African hunter-gatherers since it’s formation over 10 years ago, pioneering ways to put these groups at the centre of forest management and values through using mobile technologies (read more here).

Taking concepts of connectedness  seriously, we are now working alongside Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network (XRISN), with the aim of promoting the voices, struggles, knowledges, and worldviews of indigenous peoples. The Baka are one of these. And this video, a summary of my conversation with Mangombe, serves to further this global re-education. He wishes for it to be shared widely

 

 

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