Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The general term Mbuti refers to the Pygmies of the Ituri forest in Democratic Republic of Congo, consisting of four subgroups; the Aka, Efe, Mbuti, and Sua. A specific use of the term Mbuti refers to the net-hunting pygmies who live in the south and central Ituri forest and are associated with the Bantu-speaking Babira. The Mbuti live in territorially defined nomadic foraging bands, which number from twenty to as many as a hundred individuals.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Africa --Central Africa


Congo, Democratic Republic of the

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

There are six documents comprising the Mbuti collection. Numbers 1-3, and 5 are all by Turnbull and are based on fieldwork done among the Mbuti in the narrow sense, i.e., the Epulu band of net hunters during the 1950s and early 1970s. 1: Turnbull is based primarily on secondary sources in which he compares data from the Epulu net hunters with data from Schebesta who studied archers and whose major work on the Mbuti was published in 1938. 2: Turnbull is on cultural factors contributing to cohesiveness of Mbuti bands and their independence of village control. 3: Turnbull is a narrative of the band's reaction to the death of one of its members, and of rites and attitudes related to coming of age and marriage. 4: Putnam is on the same band of net hunters which Turnbull studied (the Epulu). It gives sketchy information on a number of topics. 5: Turnbull discusses some of the major aspects of Mbuti ethnography and the sanctuary furnished by the Ituri Forest. This document describes Mbuti existence under colonialism, their symbiotic relations with the villagers, and the cultural changes taking place in the society following the war of independence in Democratic Republic of the Congo. 6: HRAF consists of a bibliography on the Mbuti.

The culture summary and synopsis were prepared by John Beierle in April 1993.

BORU -- the human or animal body inhabited by PEPO (life force) -- Categories 778, 761 or 826

"forest", as a spiritual entity or personified benevolent force -- Category 778

KETI -- the disembodied spirits of humans and animals -- Categories 776, 769

KPARA -- the relationship between individual Mbuti and villagers -- Categories 571 and 608

MEGBE -- the vital force emanating from the totem and immanent, to different degrees, in all human beings -- Categories 778 or 761

MOLIMO -- as a mourning ceremony, Category 765; as a trumpet used in the ceremony, Category 534; as an association, Category 757

relationships between the Mbuti bands and the villagers in general -- Categories 177 and 648; economic aspects of these relationships -- Category 439; on an interpersonal plane, Categories 571, 578

ROHO -- the personality of a person which dies with the individual -- Categories 828, 778

SATANI (SHAITANHI) -- malevolent and dangerous spirits -- Categories 776, 769, or 775

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