Every story has a starting point and this one saw the light when the jungle pixie appeared. Her tiny, graceful figure was a faint touch of colour in the magical scenery of a fading world. I needed to tell a story of resilience and frailty and this Baka girl looked like a little sprite claiming her right to grow up in her natural habitat and ancestral culture. Her tiny body was caressing the majesty of one of their precious trees, invoking Edjengui, the protective spirit of the forest.
One is told about it, but one doesn't fully imagine the magnitude of the catastrophe until one comes across countless trailers loaded with gigantic moabi trunks. A green haemorrhage runs through the land of the Baka pigmies in the rain forests of Cameroon. A dying planet determined to bleed to death, while a handful of international corporations and corrupt powers enrich themselves.
The Baka Pygmies live in the mighty forests of Equatorial Africa in southeastern Cameroon, part of the world's most important green lungs after the Amazon. Anthropologists estimate that the Baka hunter-gatherer culture has been interconnected for over 40,000 years with the wonderful tapestry of forest life, for them a divine realm, their spiritual and physical home.
The jungle has provided them with everything they need to live and they do not conceive such concepts as accumulating or storing. They practice values such as gender equality, solidarity and community work. The Bakas are custodians of such unique empirical knowledge for survival in the wild that any talented Harvard brains would squirm.
However, their way of life has been drastically disrupted by massive deforestation, sedentarisation policies and the preservation of protected areas. With these restrictions, the Baka are being driven out of the forest and forced to adopt, in a mad rush, a way of life for which they are not prepared. Labour exploitation, discrimination and alcoholism are destroying the Baka culture and shattering their identity.
The Baka Pygmies, the only human life that is able to gather ancestral knowledge and incredible skills to survive in the jungle, are taking their last breaths of air. In a few years there will be nothing left of them, and this wealth of knowledge, treasured over millennia, will vanish like the smoke from their camp fires and the polyphony of their voices. The Baka are in danger of extinction and like any other species on Earth, their collapse will mean an inexplicable loss of knowledge and of codes of coexistence with Nature that we should be taking as a master class in sustainability.
Another story of half-truths, good will and greed. I sensed them in their intimate and sensorial realm, delightfully shy, industrious, and hospitable people. A mystical realm, endowed with strong emotional charge connecting one with the magical spirit of the place and the heart of this culture. A visual chronicle of learning and catharsis we need to share.