Hidden in History, Exposed to Modern Epidemics, the Lost Tribe of Ba’Aka Pygmies May Face Extinction

Hidden in History, Exposed to Modern Epidemics, the Lost Tribe of Ba’Aka Pygmies May Face Extinction

Deep in the rain forests of darkest Africa close to the Equator, in the Central African Republic, the Ba’Aka tribe – formerly known as pygmies - have lived for more than 40,000 years. Elusive, hiding in the jungle as much as they have been hiding within the annals of history. Facing deforestation due to logging companies systematically destroying the rainforest, multiple diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis and the ravages of civil war, their existence now seems to be threatened almost to a point of extinction.  Adventurer and conservationist Willem Daffue set out to live with and learn more about the enigmatic lost tribe of the rain forest.

Exuberant and joyful young Ba’Aka girl with filed teeth. (Image: Willem Daffue)

Exuberant and joyful young Ba’Aka girl with filed teeth. (Image: Willem Daffue)

‘Pygmies’ in History

In an interview on BCC, Jerome Lewis of University College London, made the remark: “Central Africa's Pygmy population - somewhere in the region of 500,000 to 900,000 people, is on a genealogical par with the San of Southern Africa. They are, in effect, who we are all related to. These are civilizations that make ancient Egypt look like a spring chicken." The first historical reference to the ‘pygmies’ occurs in a letter dated 2276 BC, to Harkhuf, by eight-year old Pharaoh Pepy II describing a: “dancing dwarf of the god from the land of spirits”.  The boy-king was eager to see the ‘pygmy’ that Harkhuf had brought him from an expedition to Nubia: “My Majesty longs to see this pygmy more than all the treasures of Sinai and Punt!”


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