Formally known as ‘Pygmies’, the Batwa are widely regarded to be the oldest surviving peoples of central Africa and their culture is one of the most ancient and endangered. For thousands of years they have survived in the dark forests of the African Great Lakes region and over generations built up a symbiotic relationship with their natural home in which skills were passed down throughout their history. Traditionally hunter-gatherers, Batwa people also had a vast knowledge of forest plants, especially for medicinal purposes, they could track bees to find their hives and collect honey and had a whole range of techniques for hunting and gathering. It was customary for this knowledge to be passed on orally through dancing, song and storytelling. Sadly, the plight of the Batwa people has not been a happy one in modern times as both the gazetting of national parks and times of civil unrest in the 19th and 20th centuries have forced them from their forest homes, putting much of their traditions at risk as they struggle to both adapt and be accepted by the modern world.
At Volcanoes, we are striving to help the Batwa rekindle these traditions so that their history and culture are better understood by both the local communities, which the Batwa now call home, and by the younger generations of Batwa themselves for whom history itself is as endangered as the wildlife that our guests come to see. Volcanoes Batwa meetings offer our guests a far more authentic view of modern Batwa life than other experiences with this ancient culture. You can still visit traditional Batwa villages and experience their songs and dance, but our guests can also interact directly with the people in their communities, so not only will you learn about their ancient and fascinating culture, but also gain a unique insight into the challenges facing this unique society as it struggles to integrate into what we take for granted as normality.
Batwa Dance Group, Gahinga
Judged a priority, the VSPT have begun to support the Batwa Dance Group. The group now perform once a week on Volcanoes Safaris land for the benefit of the local community and Volcanoes Safaris clients. Regular performances provide an opportunity to practice and to interact with the local community, with whom the much maligned Batwa have a tenuous relationship. There has been a marked improvement in the standard of performance and the group have begun to develop a greater repertoire of songs. The VSPT has purchased drums to further enhance the performances. The response by Volcanoes Safaris clients has been overwhelming and between 30-40 members of the local community attends their performances each week.