They welcomed us by dancing. An elder woman started dancing and more and more children were gathering clapping hands to the rhythm and singing. It was the first time we receive such a warm welcome and according to Olivier this is what they do to all the visitors in their village! Soon, the whole village had gathered to witness our arrival!
Traditionally Batwa people (the so-called pygmies) are hunter-gatherers. Men would hunt in teams either using traps or poison arrows. Women would complete the meal by gathering edible plants. In this way their lifestyle depended on the forest and they had no fixed land were they resided neither desire to accumulate possessions.
Two thousand years ago, most of modern east and southern Africa was resided almost solely from the Batwa and other hunter-gatherers tribes. However, with the arrival of the agriculturist and pastoralist Bantu tribes they were marginalized since the forest was being replaced by fields. Even today they cannot find a place in the society very easily.
The Batwa are so good as blacksmiths, that even people from neighboring villages come to them to get new tools or get their old ones repaired.
It looked a particularly detailed and hard job as we sat and watched them for a while. In the middle of a shed, metal sticks were being heated in the fire and kept at a steady temperature by using a blowing device made of animal skin! Then the raw metal still burning hot was beaten with a hammer on a rock to give the desirable shape and sharpness.
We also watched them decorating wooden sticks carved out from the eucalyptus tree. They would easily create dark marks by pressing the hot iron against the soft wood.
Women on the other side were busy making clay pots. At the end of the month they would gather all their crafts and take it to the market to be sold. In order to support and to thank them we bought some of their crafts to remember this genuine encounter.
Communicating with them was difficult but, thankfully, a young boy knew French, so we were able to ask Magombe, one of the elders, some questions about the Twa lifestyle for our Afriquest documentary.
As we heard him talking with his hoarse voice, we could not understand what he was saying, but yet a timeless wisdom could be heard through his words. As the whole village was being silent for the interview, once more we realized that the making of this documentary has brought us so many amazing and original moments.
However, for this one we really have to thank Olivier for bringing us in contact with them.
As we were walking to the car, we saw that the children had filled the car with flowers as a goodbye.
One of the young kids then asked us when we would come back to see them…We really hope we could answer this one…
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