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NOMAD DWARFS AND CIVILIZATION
majority of Pygmies from the tall Negroes can be stated, and it is doubtful if physical traits have at any previous period been more uniformly pronounced. Not all Pygmies are so much smaller in size as to be readily distinguished from other Africans, and in the main they are not shorter legged nor have they longer arms than the forest Negroes. Not all of them are representative of the strongly prognathous type, and a projecting monkey-like snout, with chin nearly obliterated, is an individual feature with some Bantus in most of these regions. The Pygmies are not the only African race showing the flattened, broadwinged nose, which, lacking a bridge, sets off still more sharply a well-rounded or receding forehead. Their alertness, due to peculiarities of hunting in the forest, has impressed upon their physiognomy distinctive features, which, together with a generally long, convex upper lip, are sufficiently characteristic -although more often it is scanty attire and lack of body care which distinguish them from the tall Negroes. With good reason others have mentioned the "unsteady eyes with the brutal glare," causing an uncouth, indescribably strange expression.
Perhaps too much stress has been put by various writers upon the color of the skin, which varies from black to dirty yellowish brown or reddish yellow, these and intermediate shades being as common among neighboring tall Negroes as among Pygmies. Forest tribes, however, like the Bandaka, Mobali, Mongelima, Makere, and Medje, as well as those from the plains region, the Mangbetu, Azande, and Abarambo, contrast with the uniformly dark Nilotics. Pygmies' lips are dark and the pigmentation often extends to the gums, but the undersurfaces of both hands and feet are as light as in other Negro races. Even albinos occur, although they seem more numerous among the tall Negroes; at Poko, in the Bomokandi district, more than a dozen of them lived within a short distance of the Post.
Pygmies are hairier on the body than East African types, but the West African Negroes whom we saw, especially part Nubians, like the Mangbetu, Azande, and many forest tribes, have even longer beards and mustaches, and more hair on chest and limbs; they also show the oft-mentioned "lanugo" or body down. Undoubtedly hair
iness is more usual with Pygmies, but among all males in these regions it seems to be rather an individual character, as with white men. The scalp hair varies just as in neighboring tribes, forming a thick felt-like cap of kinky black hair or, more rarely, dense patches and small, bare, meandering trails. A few Pygmies have hair of a distinctly reddish brown color, a feature not uncommon among the Negroes of the northeastern Congo basin.
Habits and Superstitions of the Pygmies; Relations with the Tall Negroes
The dusty, unkempt tufts of hair, not more than two inches long, are usually matted, and palm oil is more likely to be used for gustatory delights than to give gloss to the hair. Many Pygmies, however, favor the elaborate hairdresses SO common in countries of Mangbetu culture. Illness and death are the sword of Damocles held suspended by intense superstition. A shaved head, especially in women, is a sign of mourning. In despair the cut locks are wantonly thrown in the forest trails, and although one may walk upon them with impunity, to pick them up would bring worse grief than that of the bereaved. At all other times, however, a single hair in the possession of an enemy gives him power to turn upon the original owner all the evil that witchcraft holds. No wonder that every particle from the body, a single hair or the parings of a finger nail, is carefully concealed or burned in the forest!
Pygmies in speaking of bygone days reckon time by reference to memorable incidents in their lives, such as floods, wars, and good fortune, and extent of time, of course, is not calculated in years. The aged, far more numerous among this kindly little people than among other Negroes, are highly respected, and many must be 70 or 80 years old, since in several camps we found four generations happily performing their respective duties. Throughout the region a beard with even a few grizzled strands entitles one to authority, and near Avakubi the fame of a tottering Pygmy was surely vested in the seven-inch growth framing his wrinkled face.
It is marvelous how successfully the Pygmy has fitted himself to the complexity of conditions among the more powerful Negro races, with whom in strife he has
somewhat the relations of the scalp-hunting Indian to the home-seeking white inan. In Darkest Africa weaklings have always been mercilessly pounced upon and either killed or enslaved. But it must be under
stood that among the tall Negro races where cannibalism had become one of the basic features in the maintenance of society-however strange that may soundmen of extraordinary courage and cunning, like the Pygmies, who alone or in troops could be relied on as snipers, became in the forest regions one of the leading factors of power among the Bantu chiefs.
More than any other Negro, the Pygmy, with his freedom unchallenged, proves himself keen, fearless, and full of verve. But mark when he is confronted by a strange adventure. Posing with their trophy, the hero and his friend have listened to the camera shutter's ominous click. They consider this their lucky day for they rise unharmed from the ordeal of being photographed, more convinced than ever that the white man's weapons miss their aim
Pygmies are the children of the forest, awed by its mysteries, which their own superstitions foster and increase. Numerous dances, carried on as a rule at twilight, serve manifold purposes, most often to do honor to good spirits or to propitiate those believed to be opposed to them; but whatever the occasion, gayety usually dominates
On the other hand, in the open warfare of the plains area, by the very nature of things the Pygmies were of little importance. From reports by Schweinfurth, Junker, and Casati as to the great numbers of dwarfs in former years, it is clear that relatively recent invasions of the fertile outskirts of the forest by the Nubianized element, the Azande and Mangbetu, must have caused the rapid decimation of the tiny people. Old Akenge, the great chief of the southernmost Azande near Poko, proudly related to me how for years, before the advent of the Belgians, instead of hunting game for the usual store of meat, they had cleared the country of Pygmies. Secrecy and silence prevailed, and under cover of night they would hang around the camps of the unsuspecting dwarfs strong nets ordinarily destined to capture the larger antelope, and suddenly pouncing upon the little fellows, they would drive them into the ambuscade and spear them, entangled and helpless, like game!
The intricate relations of Pygmies with the tall Negroes are much the same everywhere. A superficial observer might call
The whir of a Pygmy's arrow is the crowning step in the pursuit of a victim, be it man or beast. In the forest consummate skill does not depend upon shooting at great distances, but on the ability to steal up under the wind, unheard, unseen, and never miss the fleeting chance. Even among Pygmies there are only a few who have the patience, daring, and energy for such accomplishment
No frenzied display marks the customary dances, where measured steps are accompanied by weird, reiterated songs and monotonous refrains. The din of the drum, beaten nervously, and of the rattles, shaken with much skill, sounds above the wild outbursts of the leaders who spur their audience to continued efforts. Men, women, and children show keen delight as they rhythmically move in the dance, but obstreperous youngsters, satisfied only with an extra wild frolic, often break away from the formal circle
them vassals, but as a matter of fact, they enjoy the independence of the irresponsible. Nobody holds them in high esteem, nor yet treats them with absolute contempt. Their natural vindictiveness and ability both to retaliate and instantly shift to safer places, make them redoubtable enemies. Acknowledged dexterity and intelligence in outwitting the foe are the secrets of their continued existence, for the Negro is inclined to respect this obscure power as much as he does brute strength. Had they any griev ances they were mostly settled by a single arrow, successfully sent forth from the revengeful hand.
They never cared to feast on their human victims, who among cannibalistic Bantus became the rightful spoils of war. Considering that Pygmies usually adopted the customs of their neighbors, it speaks in their favor that they were the only race in the forest not habitually involved in the terrible practice of cannibalism. True children of the forest, success in the chase satisfied their craving for meat. A sincere fellowship among themselves did away with the miseries and horrors of tribal warfare, yet they were ever ready to ward off attack. They have been the losing minority-never masters, and yet never slaves.
Continued hunting has taught the Pygmy to be as quick as lightning. Swift of foot, brave and fearless, he succeeds where others face defeat. He rather eludes than braves his foe, and though he chafes under disappointment as much as the tall Negro, he shows greater patience and determination. Time being an unimportant element, he waits for a fair chance to slay his enemy, man or beast. His eagerness to protect himself is akin to the terror of a hunted animal; and when cornered he, too, fights to the finish.
In spite of his wonderful specialization in hunting, which with the Pygmies varies as much individually and is equally subject to hero worship as unusual excellence with other peoples, the Pygmy lacks initiative to a very marked degree. Taken out of his sphere, where though poor and shiftless as a Bohemian he knows he is a dominating factor, he rapidly becomes weak and wavering, not even able to escape degeneracy.
Tribal marks are a means of identification among Congo natives comparable with uniforms of soldiers in civilized countries, and
that these and other decorations have deep significance for Pygmies is proved by their general adoption as recorded by all observers. Filed teeth, a circular block of ivory in the upper lip, elaborate tattoos, a perforated concha, and a bone crosswise through the nose are in favor according to tribal connections. Beads, bracelets, anklets and leglets of iron or brass, amulets, and ornate hairdresses mark the fashion; moreover in all decorative attempts the Pygmy is a poor imitator of the tall Negro. Language of the Pygmies; Food, and Home
Time and again explorers have had the excitement of thinking that they had discovered a real Pygmy idiom, which, they hoped, might help solve the problem of racial affiliations. But now it is an established fact that Pygmies today have no language of their own. They always speak the tongue of the neighboring agricultural tribes. Very often they may use, out of sheer laziness, a sort of jargon which sounds like a different language. But when interrogated, they speak more distinctly, and it is discovered that two or three wellknown dialects have been mingled indiscriminately. May not the curious clicking sounds, believed by some to denote Bushman affinities, have had their origin in the necessity for communicating during hunting, when oral language would betray their presence to wary game?
In these tropics of uniform climate, problems of housing and clothing seldom force themselves on the attention, and the Pygmy's foremost occupation centers in food, for on a well-fed body all passions and pleasures depend. They hunt to live, at dull times confident of future plenty, and during abundance, reënacting the story of the carcass over which the vultures fight and the hyenas yowl and laugh. Although not epicures, they like a variety of food. Hunting falls to the lot of the men, fishing and the gathering of various tidbits to that of women and children. Mushrooms, yams, snails, and caterpillars are stewed in palm oil, and termites, wild honey, bee grubs, kola nuts, and fruits of rubber vine are welcome relishes.
Once in a while Pygmies may have shot an arrow into a neighbor's fine bunch of bananas to claim it as their own, or deposited a proportionate amount of meat in
PORTRAITS OF PYGMIES, BY THE AMERICAN MUSEUM CONGO EXPEDITION
The middle two are women. Ears, eyes, nose, lips, forehead, cheekbones, and chin vary in Pygmies to the same extent relatively that they vary in other races affected by
Patience and tact overcame most obstacles in dealing with crowds, and the slightest amusements transformed unpleasant delays into joyful occasions. Gifts to the musicians