It is a horn-like trumpet used by the Mbuti pygmy tribes of Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also the name of a ritual to celebrate the precious life of the forest to these hunter-gatherers.
The Mbuti, also known as the Bambuti, live in the Ituri Forest, a tropical rainforest area of the northeast portion of the DRC, covering around 70,000 sq km. They are one of the oldest indigenous people of the Congo region of Africa, the largest sub-group being the Sua.
Their culture is entirely centred around the forest the source of all food and protection, with a strong belief in it as sacred place, commonly calling it mother or father. As part of that, the molimo ritual that surround all key life events, such as death of an important person in the tribe, the molimo, with music, played on the trumpet made of bamboo, wood, or sometimes meta drainpipe, is noisily celebrated to wake the forest, in the belief that if bad things are happening to its children, the tribe, it must be asleep, and must be summoned to protect them.
The ritual, reaching its climax with men dancing around the fireside, mixes the eerie music of the trumpet with human voice. The anthropologist Colin Turnbull made this recording of such an event.
The sound produced by a molimo is considered more important than the material it is made out of. When not in use, the trumpet is stored in the trees of the forest. During a celebration, the trumpet is retrieved by the youth of the village and carried back to the fireside ritual.
Unfortunately deforestation and civil war has put many of the Mbuti's traditional forms of life at considerable risk.
As hunter-gatherers, moving in the Mbuti don't choose a leader, but share tasks, and women, while concentrating on working more in the camps, and joining in with foraging with children, have equal power. Issues are discussed and decisions are made by consensus at fire camps; men and women engage in the conversations equivalently.
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