The Batwa culture
Whenever you visit Uganda for cultural tourism, you do not need to miss experiencing the culture of the first people of the Rainforest the Batwa and Bambuti Pygmies. They live in the areas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and meeting these indigenous people offers you a glimpse into history and memories of ancient Africa. The Batwa were the original dwellers of the ancient forest known as the “keepers of the forest” who lived in harmony with the forest and greatly depended on it for survival by hunting small games using bows and arrows. They majorly depended on forest resources for food, medicine, basketry, firewood, house construction, tools, rituals, hunting and recreation. These indigenous people are loyal to their traditional practices such as hunting and gathering forest resources, eating uncooked food, worshipping gods in the forest, sleeping in caves, guiding forest researchers and tourists, dressing in leaves and animal skins, making fire using dry sticks. Caves, hot springs, rivers, hills, plants and animals are of special significance in their worldview.
Traditionally, the Batwa had three main types of house: caves, omuririmbo and ichuro where caves and omuririmbo were the main buildings for accommodation and ichuro was for resting and storing food such as meat, honey, beans and sorghum. They had a special traditional way of burying dead people in that when a Mutwa died would be buried in a hut after digging a small hole and wrapping the corpse in grass. The burial ceremony involved cleansing the corpse with herbs such as omuhanga, enkyerere and omufumba, the all family members would drink herbal extracts to prevent death from claiming more people and after burial; they would migrate to a far off place and never return.
According to Batwa customs, a Mutwa cannot marry a non-Mutwa and getting pregnant before marriage was forbidden. Marriage was arranged by the parents like in other cultures, parents would identify a girl with good qualities for marriage and then pay visit to the girl’s famlily. On the day of ‘giving away’ the girl, the groom would bring gifts for the bride and her family such as beads, new and well-oiled animal skins, roast meat, elephant tusks, honey from stingless bees, beer brewed with honey and sometimes hunting dogs. At the time of giving birth, she would be helped by other women who would use pieces of bamboo to cut the umbilical cord and then wrap the baby in clean animal skins.
The Batwa culture gives you an educative and amazing experience mostly created by their heritage and traditions. An interaction with the Batwa provides to you a clear understanding of their norms, traditional life styles and other cultural aspects, including knowing the different medicinal herbs, Caves, original batwa huts, local fire making, behavior in the forest, watch their interesting dance, wonderful views of the forest, different tree species, Bee keeping, Batwa Art facts and utensils, nature walks in impenetrable virgin forest and many more. Generally you can gain experiential experience from these activities
- Hike in the forest with the people of the forest, the Batwa guide can provide you with the chance to see the forest and its habitants.
- See how they lived and hunted in the traditional way, enjoy trying out hunting as the Batwa teaches you how to shoot with a bow and arrow.
- Visit a traditional Batwa homestead and learn from the women how to prepare, cook and serve as a meal
- Talk to a medicine men and learn about the medicinal properties of the forest flora.
- Hear ancient legends and traditional songs.