Monday, May 5, 2014

Aka References

Hewlett, Barry S.. Intimate fathers: the nature and context of Aka pygmy paternal infant care. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991. Print.

 Hewlett, Barry S. "Cultural diversity among African pygmies." In: Cultural Diversity Among Twentieth-Century Foragers. Susan Kent, ed. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Print.

 "'Pygmies'." - Survival International. © Survival International Charitable Trust, n.d. Web. 1 May 2014. <>.

 Howell Boyette, Adam . "Aka Fieldsite in the Congo Basin ." . Arts & Humanities Research Council, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <>.

 Mark, Joan T. The King of the World in the Land of the Pygmies. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

"Countries and Their Cultures." Aka. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <>.

Aka Cultural Survival

The Aka have faced many different challenges in the past years.  Most recently, "The conflict in the DRC (Congo) has been especially brutal for the country’s ‘Pygmy’ peoples, who have suffered killings and rape, and allegedly been the victims of cannibalism from the heavily armed fighters.
In 2003, Mbuti representatives petitioned the UN to protect their people from horrific abuse by armed militia in Congo, including extremely high incidences of rape of women by the armed men. One of the outcomes has been a soaring rate of HIV/Aids.  In living memory, we have seen cruelty, massacres, genocide, but we have never seen human beings hunted and eaten literally as though they were game animals, as has recently happened,’ Sinafasi Makelo, Mbuti spokesman.  Where ‘Pygmy’ communities continue to have access to the rich forest resources on which they have traditionally depended, their levels of nutrition are good."
The Aka fall into this category of pygmies and they too have been the target of many new threats.  The Aka people are facing the like of loggers who are trying to come in and cultivate the land they use.  "In the Congo, multinational logging companies rushed in at the first signs of peace to extract valuable timber.  Local communities are often tricked into signing away their rights to the land, losing their cultural heritage, the source of their livelihoods and their food security in exchange for a handful of salt, sugar or a machete.  The results are devastating to the people, the forest, the climate and the future of this desperately unstable country.  In the wake of the loggers come thousands of settlers, eager to farm on the newly accessible land, hostile to the forest peoples whose lands have been destroyed."(
These threats are pushing these people off of their native lands and forcing them to leave behind their native traditions and cultures.  The lands and rights of the people are being ripped out right from underneath them and it is destroying their world.

Aka Migrations and Diaspora

The Aka people are a nomadic forest dwelling people primarily from  southwestern Central African Republic and the Brazzaville Region of the Republic of the Congo.  Although they have never been pushed out of their homelands, they are nomadic so they have tendencies to pick up and move whole small villages to more suitable lands and environments throughout the different seasons.  During the 1930's under French rule, the Aka were moved into forest side villages, but this was seen as a fail, as many villagers went back into the forest for they convenience of living where they need to.  This is the closest instance I could find of Aka being pushed out of their territories.  Another instances of migrating throughout the immediate area is inter-tribal marriages, where a Aka man or woman will be married to someone from another tribe.  In most cases Aka woman who marry into other tribes will live with their husbands family, and majority of the time Aka males will stay in their own homes with their new spouse.  The newly married couples will live under the same roof of the parents for several years, up to 5, until they move out into their own home/hut.  The Aka have tended to stay in the forest for the simple lifestyle suits them.  Many people have tried to move them out, but up until recently it was very hard to find any use for the lands of the Aka, so most people left them alone.

Aka and Their Neighbors

The Aka tend to be generally peaceful people who live a egalitarian like life.  They tend to be pushed and shoved around by many of their neighbors.  This makes most of their neighbors use the Aka for their own benefit.  In one instance of a neighboring tribe, the Ngandu believe that they own the Aka.  These Ngandu rejoice when Aka have children cause it often means cheap labor in the near future.  The Aka have very limited social interactions within the neghboring communities.  They practice their own lifestyles and customs, but they often interact during the harvest season.  They mainly trade honey for other goods in markets near their villages.  Because they practice no ownership over any other tribesman, they do not buy many things because they are forced to share with the whole tribe.  This is leading to a decline in farming and trading among the Aka with their neighbors. 
Other neighbors of the Aka do not understand the "forest lifestyle" that they live, usually consisting of hunting and gathering during the day, and then dancing and socializing throughout the night.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Aka Cosmos

The world of the Aka is one of what they know.  They are rarely educated in a formal setting so their knowledge of the world tends to be exaggerated in some sense.  The group believes in two types of "god" figures although they do not overly worship either.  The first is a creator god, Bembe, who is thought of as the one who put everything where it is, the Aka believe that Bembe worked very hard on creating everything there is now, and because of this Bembe has gone into eternal slumber or retired.  The other spirit that now guides and watches over the material world in Dzengi who is seen as the spirit of the forest.  He is the one who gives the Aka everything they have, the Aka will make sacrifices for Dzengi during the spring and fall.  These two spirits are traditions within the Aka which seem to be dying off as more and more Aka move out of the rainforests and into actual cities and communities.  Ceremonial dances are held frequently to ensure the productivity of the hunt, but also on the occasion of a death.  To deal with private matters, more intimate rites may be performed, perhaps with the assistance of an nganga.  An nganga is essentially the Aka version of a shaman and he tends to also serve as a consort to the spirit world, usually with the help of hallucinogens.  The Aka are also people who have a set of cultural taboos, known as ekila, which serve as a spiritual and moral guidance.  The Aka also tend to believe in a connection that each individual has to the spirit world, which can be tapped into with the help of an nganga.

World of the Aka

The Aka use a set standard on values of each person in the tribe.  Everyone has some sort of job within the community that benefits the tribe as a whole.  Aka society is acephalous and highly egalitarian.  During the dry season, when camps are closer together, communal net-hunts are arranged, and several camps will join together.  Men, women, and children may participate, one group acting as the “beaters” flushing game out of the bush toward the surrounding hunting nets where a second group of participants waits with spears ready.The majority of work done by the men is hunting, sometimes these hunting parties can be gone for days tracking animals on a hunt.  The women of the tribe will also be involved in the hunt sometimes, but they also gather many fruits and nuts off the trees in their habitat.  Gathering activities also vary by season, though many fruits, nuts, fungi, and the leaves of Gnetum africanum are gathered opportunistically, as are forest snails and tortoises.  The men also serve as the primary educators of the children and will take them almost everywhere they go.  There is a understanding that the children need to know what they can obtain from the forest at an early age, as well as to be able to understand what they can and cannot eat.  The advancement of technology in the area has called for the Aka to come out of the forest and work traditional crop fields, something the Aka are not accustomed to.  Since colonial times, Aka have started to travel outside of their communities and work in small rural villages and towns, usually on farms.  This allows for little income and many Aka see it as a obstacle in their daily lives.  The Aka want to stay connected to their traditional past.

Tropical forests of southwestern Central African Republic: Homeland of the Aka

The Aka tend to live in dense rainforests in the Congo and in the Central African Republic.  They live in a tropical climate and the dense, humid forest in this region is heterogeneous in composition. 
The area is covered by solid ground semideciduous forest, but has areas with solid ground evergreen forests, swamp or marsh forests in the riverine valleys, and open savannah.  Secondary forest also exists in regions recently abandoned by slash and burn agriculturalists.  Game and wild species vary across these various forest types and Aka hunt a number of species in each environment, but will tend to hunt whatever they can find.  The Aka are hunter gathers so the primary role men play are to hunt and gather food for the rest of the tribe, they spend the majority of their time doing this.  
The northern part of the region the Aka inhabit has a tropical climate with two seasons, and the southern part a subequatorial climate with four seasons.  Average rainfall throughout is approximately 1700mm (1407-2381 mm), and the mean annual temperature is 24.5 degrees centigrade .