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How the Babingas treat back pain


The Dance of Death
Redmond O'Hanlon Writer
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And that's the men waiting with the net here, hung up, very precious, with the plantain leaves on top to keep it dry. And you're always told this myth about the pygmies that they can make themselves invisible, they can assume another state. They can make themselves into a forest elephant, just shape-changing. Everybody just talks about it as if it's a perfectly obvious and natural thing to do. The pygmies can do it. Well, walking along, deep in the forest one day, and I didn't know but there was a pygmy standing right by the trunk of a vast tree, completely still. I mean, you couldn't see him. In the shadows, he was. And then he saw a friend of his, Muko, who was my guide, as it were. And so he yells, 'Hello, you horrible old fat pig', or whatever. And I just jumped. I mean, there's a lot of truth in it. And amazing, astonishing hunters. I mean, to us, a very strong smell, but it seems that chimpanzees, monkeys, antelope and forest elephants, that the line is they really cannot smell a pygmy.

Now there's an awful lot of time left over in a Babinga day, because getting protein, getting meat and your vitamins in the blood in the meat, very, very efficient. So you've got enough food for at least two or three days from one hunt. And in the evening, this happens. No televisions, no Christopher Sykes productions, but absolutely a huge repertoire of different dances. Now this is part of the Dance of the Dead, though these girls, as you see, aren't taking it very seriously, but this old woman really is. And apparently, that's the size of her child when he was killed by a leopard.

Now this is the Dance of Death, and he's the master of the dance, a young man who'd been way over to another group of pygmies to learn the secret of this dance. Very artistic. And it was, indeed, astonishing. He gyrates up and then right down, and seems to disappear into the ground. I mean, you've got to remember they're just Olympic fit. That's what they do all day. But it's only with this flash picture that I realised he's wearing a gorilla skull. See, his head's probably about here. Well... And after that, we were only allowed to take two flash pictures. It was absolutely not on. They'd never seen a flash go off before. And here is the old man. There's no sort of chief system. It's all very democratic. But he's the eldest, and the minute you're that age, you are really rare, you know. Death around 30 at the most, 25. And he's leading the spirit of death. And the basic story is that you invite Death for your palm wine party, but then you make sure that you get Death very, very drunk. And he falls down and you pick him up and you chuck him out into the forest. And then you don't have to think about Death until the next dance. Terrific.

British author Redmond O’Hanlon writes about his journeys into some of the wildest places in the world. His travels have taken him into the jungles of the Congo and the Amazon, he has faced some of the toughest tribes alive today, and has sailed in the hurricane season on a trawler in the North Atlantic. In all of this, he explores the extremes of human existence with passion, wit and erudition.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Babinga

Duration: 4 minutes, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: July - September 2008

Date story went live: 01 November 2017