National Geographic : 1960 Feb
Forest Midgets Relax at Day's End in Their Jungle Courtyard Woman resting with chin on hand is Sau, accused of witchcraft, whom Mrs. Putnam saved from death (page 297). Sleeping dog descends from ancient Basenjis, de picted on tombs of the Egyptian Pharaohs. Thatches of leaves, though flimsy in ap pearance, shed the rain forest's frequent downpours. One unfinished hut reveals its lattice framework. Wicker baskets atop another are used to carry food. Descendants of an ancient race whose origins baffle anthropologists, the 4 2 -foot, brick-brown hunters survive with a few crude weapons, courage, and a reluctance to worry about tomorrow. up there, and all the ants in the tree might join me in the car, but even that seemed preferable. Backing up the Peugeot for a good start, I shifted into low gear and lunged forward. After a breath-taking moment among crackling branches, I found myself on the other side of the tree. Hours later, after 95 more miles of slick road and virtually zero visibility, I was honk ing my horn at Camp Putnam. Sleepy-eyed Pygmies and their masters, the normal-sized Bantu, stumbled out of huts and surrounded the car. They were so taken with it for a few minutes that I began to feel a little in the way. Then they remembered me. Pygmies Offer Forest as Gift When Patrick died, the Pygmies, Bantu, and other natives from miles around had as sembled at Camp Putnam for a solemn little ceremony. "Now that Bwana is dead," their spokes man had told me, ''the forest is left in your hands. We give it to you." Now, as of old, they called me "Madami" - madame-and said: "The forest still be longs to you. It does not matter how many other white men come.'' That first night I was too tired to unpack. Bantu neighbors came to my house and lent me bed sheets embroidered with red elephants. I dropped off to sleep reflecting anew upon the curious bond that exists between these taller Africans and the Pygmies. The strangest part of this feudal relation ship lies in the absence of oppression or cruelty sometimes found in such social systems. Vio lence did play a part, however, in the early 18th century, beginning long before Europeans arrived in central Africa. In those days in 282 tertribal wars were encouraged by the Arabs, who invaded the interior in search of ivory, used captured natives to carry tusks to the coast, and sold them as slaves to traffickers in human flesh. Many Pygmies were involved in these wars. The taller Bantu, busy fighting, saw the Pygmies' usefulness as hunters and foragers and tried to keep them in a serflike status. The Pygmies, who have never mastered the art of forging metal, obtain tools and utensils from their lieges. In return, the Bantu exer cise certain protective rights over the Pygmies. Good will exists on both sides.