Twa (Batwa) Mythology

The Batwa, also known as the Twa (sing.) people, are one of the ethnic groups among the original inhabitants of the equatorial forest of Central Africa. The forest was granted to them by the Creator as part of their right and responsibility to preserve the Great Lakes region. When the Creator had distributed all the land to other groups, he left the high mountains and plains around Lake Kivu in Congo (Kinshasa), Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi for the Batwa people to make their home.

Standing at a short stature with red skin and prominent foreheads, eyes, and teeth, the Batwa were endowed with the safekeeping of the forest, which provided them with nourishments and medicines and a place for sacred grounds. In this regard, the Batwa became the guardians of the forest and its primary benefactors. This made the people unique beings in that they lived in harmony with the forest region that enabled them to become specialists in forest skills, such as hunting and gathering and preparing herbal medicines.

Because of this harmonious relationship with their environment, the Batwa lifestyle was rich in song, dance, and musical gatherings, which were influenced by their surroundings. In general, the Batwa utilized an equalized social system based on their understanding of collectivism. That is, they practiced a communal relationship with one another, a relationship that allowed them to rely on each member of the community to contribute to the overall wellbeing of the group. Their collective work and efforts,as well as their unique relationship with the forest, entitled the Batwa to consider themselves as supreme. As a result of their special sense of self, and in an effort to protect it, they worshipped the spirits in the forest to preserve their special rights.

Their responsibility and privilege as guardians of the forest enabled them to have a unique connection to the resources of the lands, and this allowed them to gain specialized knowledge of herbs and other natural products. This knowledge gained is transmitted in oral history through Rutwa,which is the language of the Batwa people’s songs and stories. Moreover, the Batwa people have a special relationship to the spirits of the land and to the land itself. Their rituals and ceremonies exhibit the felt necessity for the people to sanctify and legitimize rituals surrounding such events as the installations of the kings and the prosperity and reproduction of their own societies.

The Batwa people are acknowledged as the original instructors and leaders of the forest community, and they are therefore enabled to guide and teach others about the spiritual connection between the people and the forest, as their rightful place to protect and preserve, while utilizing the lands for the growth and continuation of the Batwa society.

Marquita Pellerin

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