Read The Forest People by Colin M. Turnbull Online


- Colin M. Turnbull's best-selling, classic work - describes the author's experiences while living with the BaMbuti Pygmies, not as a clinical observer, but as their friend learning their customs and sharing their daily life.Turnbill conveys the lives and feelings of the BaMbuti whose existence centers on their intense love for their forest world, which, in return for the - Colin M. Turnbull's best-selling, classic work - describes the author's experiences while living with the BaMbuti Pygmies, not as a clinical observer, but as their friend learning their customs and sharing their daily life.Turnbill conveys the lives and feelings of the BaMbuti whose existence centers on their intense love for their forest world, which, in return for their affection and trust, provides their every need. We witness their hunting parties and nomadic camps; their love affairs and ancient ceremonies - the molimo, in which they praise the forest as provider, protector, and deity; the elima, in which the young girls come of age; and the nkumbi circumcision rites, in which the villagers of the surrounding non-Pygmy tribes attempt to impose their culture on the Pygmies, whose forest home they dare not enter.The Forest People eloquently shows us a people who have found in the forest something that makes their life more than just living - a life that, with all its hardships and problems and tragedies, is a wonderful thing of happiness and joy....

Title : The Forest People
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ISBN : 9780671201531
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 295 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Forest People Reviews

  • Podiceps
    2019-03-23 13:12

    What really bothers me about this book are the nonchalant mentions of violence, especially against women and children (referred to as a „sound slapping“ or „a good beating“), without giving these occurences the attention they should deserve, without taking them seriously and discussing them accordingly. If you told me about this nice American couple you have met, supernice people, getting along great with each other and their offspring, doing all sorts of interesting stuff, and then you casually mention they are frequently thrashing their children, I would certainly feel obliged to question your judgement. The apparently existing ingroup aggression of the BaMbuti is, in my opinion, brushed away, belittled or at times even condoned, probably to present the BaMbuti in a good light. These violent incidents directly contradict the portrayal of the group as a generally joyous, fairly harmonious, cooperative, joky and benign bunch, but Turnbull doesn't take any notice of that, he describes the incidents but fails to acknowledge them. Maybe the author is for some unknown reason insensitive to violence and slapping children doesn't seem too much of a big deal to him, I don't know. There is a disturbing scene of the whipping of a thieve, (who is portrayed by the author as lazy, and it is kind of implied that the man is deserving of punishment) with thorny branches, yet the author doesn't seem to be shocked at all, and goes on talking almost poetically about how the BaMbuti solve their problems in a non-official, informal and communal way.The only time Turnbull expresses sympathy for a harrowed being takes place, when he describes the cruel treatment animals receive at the hands of the BaMbuti. There is no shortage of violent episodes in the book, and there is no shortage of Turnbull's strangely detached and casual way of dealing with these occurences. How would the anthropologist describe Fra Angelico's hell? A bunch of people in chains sitting in warm jacuzzis being a bit manhandled by overall courteous demons? Quote: “Amabosu countered by smacking her firmly across the face. Normally Ekianga would have approved of such a manly assertion of authority over a disloyal wife.......“Manly assertion of authority? Doesn't sound like the frame of mind and canon of values of a generally egalitarian amicable tribe to me! It makes me wonder, how correct Turnbull's other observations are, and what someone else might have thought of the forest people. En passant it is mentioned, that only children and youths receive thrashings, which can only mean that corporal punishment of children is nothing out of the ordinary, but rather common. To me it sounds like there is a considerable amount of ingroup violence going on, yet Turnbull seems strangely unconcerned with that and continues unperturbed to paint a rather idyllic picture of the BaMbuti society. Then appears a sentence, which solves the mystery and clearly shows the author's opinion and explains his sloppy, apathetic treatment of ingroup violence, after which I refused to go on reading the book.Turnbull states: „For children life is one long frolic interspersed with a healthy sprinkle of spankings and slappings.“The book was written in the sixties and an educated person of that time should have known better.Research on brain development clearly shows, that there is no such thing as a healthy spanking and slapping.

  • Adam
    2019-03-12 15:34

    Turnbull's memoir of his time living among the BaMbuti pygmies of the Congo. Not an ethnography or academic work in any sense, it is instead an earnest account that humanizes the BaMbuti and sells their delightfully cheerful worldview and lifestyle. The BaMbuti live in the forest, depend on it and their souls are nourished by it. I read the book incidentally; it was one of the most appealing in the Friends of the Richland Public Library store during the time I was unable to get a library card. I wouldn't have chosen to read it otherwise, but I'm glad I did. It served as a very nice illustration, above all, of the indigenous land ethic and oral-culture mode of perception advocated in David Abram's The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. The pygmies know nothing but the forest and the small clearings made by the villagers at the edges of the forest. Their psychological intimacy with the forest is made quite clear when Turnbull takes Kenge out of it, into the mountains. He struggles a long time with the treelessness of the plains and the mountains, is baffled by snow, etc, but ultimately comes to this realization, which is quite nice:"I was wrong. This is a good place, though I don't like it; it must be good, because there are so many animals. There is no noise of fighting. It is good because the sky is clear and the ground is clean. It is good because I feel good; I feel as though I and the whole world were sleeping and dreaming. Why do people always make so much noise? . . . If only there were more trees. . . ."It's of some interest to note that the pygmies don't have any kind of central authority system at all. Problems just sort of work themselves out because people soon tire of fighting, and in general there's nothing very serious to motivate those fights to last long. Incidentally, Turnbull constantly describes the pygmies as foraging for mushrooms, more than roots or berries or other such things. That's pretty cool.Ultimately, it would have been cooler if Turnbull had focused on some interesting aspects of the pygmies' cultural knowledge of the forest, but it was still nice to just sense this intimacy grounding the pygmies' character and actions.

  • AC
    2019-03-17 11:24

    Popular anthropology, descriptive, certainly a bit dated. In fact, its idealizing picture is probably quite false and a reflection more of the author's own neurotic obsessions than of his scholarly habits. Turnbulll, though a student of the great E. E. Evans-Pritchard, was quite an eccentric. There is a now a biography of Turnbull, by Roy Grinker, called In The Arms Of Africa.Here is a review if Grinker, plus thebfirst chapter

  • Lauren Levine
    2019-02-27 11:36

    I begrudgingly read The Forest People in my cultural anthropology intro course my freshman year of college. This was the book and the class that lead me to receiving a minor in anthropology. At first, I thought it was going to be a dry, clinical ethnography with confusing language and theories. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how lively the book actually was.One of the things I loved most was the vibrant, humorous, and detailed life of the Bambuti pygmies that Turnbull paints for his readers. The further you get along, the more the individual pygmies start to become part of your life, celebrating with them through the good times, and mourning during periods of turmoil. Turnbull describes the ups and downs of life for the Bambuti in such detail that you can't help but become captivated by the story. All in all the book stresses how precious life really is, and how the Bambuti make the most of what they have in the world around them. At the end, you will be left wondering what has become of many of the individuals described, because you'll truly feel as if you have been living with them too. One of my favorite ethnographies, so glad my professor made me read it!

  • Liralen
    2019-03-16 13:26

    Altogether fascinating and readable account of an anthropologist's time spent with the BaMbuti people -- Pygmies -- though certainly by now outdated and perhaps written with inadequate scientific distance.Turnbull tells of a culture by and large isolated from modern society, with a complex relationship with non-BaMbuti villagers and a deep identification with the forest. He presents a sort of 'us vs. them' treatment of the villagers and the BaMbuti, delighting in the latter's flexible application of tradition and subversion of village beliefs and expectations. (Frankly, if he'd stuck solely to the question of BaMbuti relations to the village, he still would have had a surfeit of material.)Although Turnbull clearly had an unusual level of access to and comfort with the BaMbuti, at times I question whether that works against him in his writing. Most strikingly, he tells of a young woman resisting an arranged marriage. She's known to like the intended groom, Turnbull tells us; she's rejected his proposals again and again, so now her family -- literally -- beats her into submission. Not that I expected outraged discourse from Turnbull, exactly (that would be a lack of distance in another sense), but he seems to accept all this at face value and go with it, even as the woman acts so clearly defeated. I'm left wondering how much interaction with, and understanding of, he had with the women of the culture. He describes that culture, explicitly, as pretty equal -- women have a role in hunting; men share in childcare duties -- but, well, this was the 50s, and...'equal' seems a bit relative.It's been almost fifty years since this work was first published; I wonder how things have changed -- and how much -- for the BaMbuti in the interim.

  • Jason
    2019-03-13 12:22

    I read this book years ago in a college Anthropology course but could never remember the name of it, until seeing it on Goodreads tonight!This was the first true Anthropology book I'd ever written. I was blown away by the vividness of the BaMbuti world, captivated by their reverence for nature, and impressed with their structure and ritual. I've thought about this book many times over the years and have always wondered if we've done the forest people a disservice by entering their world. Nevertheless I was grateful for this brief glimpse in to it.

  • Richard Reese
    2019-03-15 14:16

    Colin Turnbull’s book The Forest People takes us on a fascinating voyage into the world of the Mbuti Pygmies, who live in the Ituri rainforest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Turnbull (1924-1994) was an anthropologist who spent several years with the Pygmies, beginning in 1951. He came from a wealthy English family, but he found life among the Pygmies to be so satisfying that he had to resist strong urges to remain with them.Instead of using the standard scholarly format for anthropology books, Turnbull described these people in a series of stories. These stories included descriptions of the important cultural components of the Pygmy way of life, and introduced us to the personalities of various individuals in the band. They were hunter-gatherers, and they enjoyed an exceedingly low tech way of life in their tropical rainforest home. They had little need for clothing, blankets, or warm shelters. They hunted with nets, spears, and bows and arrows. They did not garden or herd animals. Consequently, they had an abundance of leisure time. They loved singing, dancing, storytelling, and visiting kinfolk. They would laugh until they were too weak to stand, then sit down and laugh. In 2500 BC, Egyptian explorers discovered the Pygmies. Their report to the Pharaoh described “a people of the trees, a tiny people who sing and dance to their god, a dance such as had never been seen before.” When Turnbull arrived 4,500 years later, he found a similar scenario. They had a way of life that worked, and it was quite enjoyable. Yes, daily life included normal personality conflicts, but their society did not suffer from chiefs, priests, thieves, chauvinists, inequality, or individualism.The hunting way of life required cooperation, so the Pygmies were highly skilled at conflict resolution. One of their proverbs proclaimed that “a noisy camp is a hungry camp.” Disputes promptly led to active discussion by the group. Shunning and ridicule were common tools, and annoying offenders were sometimes beaten.Everything about the forest was sacred to the Pygmies. “They were a people who had found in the forest something that made their life more than just worth living, something that made it, with all its hardships and problems and tragedies, a wonderful thing full of joy and happiness and free of care.” In another book, Turnbull mentioned Father Longo, a Catholic missionary who refused to preach to the Pygmies, because they had no word for evil. “In order to convert them, then, he would first have to teach them the concept of evil, and that he was not prepared to do.”Moke, a wise elder, said: “The forest is a father and mother to us, and like a father or mother it gives us everything we need — food, clothing, shelter, warmth, and affection. Normally everything goes well, because the forest is good to its children, but when things go wrong, there must be a reason.” Alas, sometimes the forest fell asleep, and failed to take care of the Pygmies, leading to illness, death, or bad hunting. Army ants might move in, or a leopard might snatch a child. When these problems occurred, the Pygmies would sing to the forest, to wake it up and make it happy. They sometimes performed the molimo ceremony, during which animal noises were made using a long hollow wooden instrument.And when the forest was happy, they would sing and dance to share their happiness with it. They lived in a heavenly place, in constant direct contact with everything they held to be sacred. They had absolute reverence for the forest, their ancient home, and they were some of its many children. The Pygmies enjoyed at least 4,500 years of relative stability, and this was made possible by their primitive technology. If they had become farmers or herders, their journey would have been far more destructive and turbulent. They would have seriously damaged themselves and their sacred forest. Change has been increasing in Pygmy country, requiring them to adjust the way they live. Maybe 400 years ago, Bantu people moved into the forest and began slash-and-burn farming. They had been herders from the grasslands of East Africa, but they were driven off their home by other tribes. Their cattle died in the jungle, so they traded food with the Pygmies for meat. In the 1880’s, the Congo became a colony of Belgium. Since then efforts have been made to “liberate” the unfortunate Pygmies and convert them into hard-working tax-paying farmers. This plan has not enjoyed great success. At one farm, 29 Pygmies died of sunstroke in a single day. They thrive in the cool shade of their ancient forest, and they harbor an intense hatred of miserable backbreaking field work — what could be more idiotic?In the twentieth century, the Ituri has been ravaged by road-builders, loggers, miners, ivory poachers, bushmeat hunters, missionaries, and a bloody parade of trigger-happy rebels, terrorists, goon squads, psychopaths, and freedom fighters. There have been numerous armed conflicts. The Second Congo War began in 1998, and resulted in 5.4 million deaths, mostly from disease and starvation. Many displaced people were driven into the Ituri Forest. Pygmies were hunted down and eaten like game animals. Much deforestation has been caused by the continuous expansion of slash-and-burn farming. Jungle soils are rapidly depleted by agriculture, and the Congo’s birthrate is one of the world’s highest. Almost half of the population is younger than 15.When The Forest People was published, it soon became popular. Turnbull thought that the book had impact “because the near-Utopia described rang true, and showed that certain voids in the lives of many of us could indeed be filled.”Ah yes, the voids in our lives. How often do we sing and dance to keep our forest happy? Turnbull has given us a precious gift — a taste of what a healthy and joyful life could be like, living in harmony with the land, singing and dancing in a balanced ecosystem, century after century after century. His book offers us a brief enchanting escape from our world of madness, and a beautiful vision of what life could be like for our descendants.

  • Katharine
    2019-02-26 14:11

    I am really torn about this book. On the hand, it does read like an adventure book, and by the end of it you feel like you too went and lived with the Pygmies. Even I eventually managed to more or less remember who was who (I'm really bad at following names and many characters) and get this feeling of knowing them closely enough. It was also very interesting to read about all the animals they've met, and of course different cultures even within "the neighborhood" (for example, the BaMbuti v.s. the villagers).On the other hand, it is for some reason uneasy. I don't know what it is, because it's not boring or anything, the language isn't hard... but I just could barely get through it. It took me 3 months, I even considered returning the book half way through. Maybe it's all the forest in the way.I wish I had more knowledge about colonialism and post-colonialism, as this book clearly draws a curious picture. It wasn't really focused on the economics of it all, but there was enough to be analysed... if I could.What I can do, however, is point out two things that made me feel weird. One, is the author's unfair analysis of gender-roles and complete numbness to violence. He claims that there are basically no activities that are strictly "male" or "female", that if someone wanted to they could intersect. Like a man could pick up a mushroom and a woman could talk about hunting. And yet, of course no one does that much, and talking about hunting is not the same as hunting, and literally 90% of the events and activities he describes are gendered. Males have clear superiority as they use "healthy beatings" on their wives and sisters, command where the family goes, and get the food served to, the house built to, etc. Molimo is gendered, elima and nkumbi are gendered (that's the literal point of it - coming of age rituals, separated by gender as they get taught different things cuz their role in society is different) and those are the main three things the book is about. One sentence he says that everything is a partnership, the next they divide for some activity. And the violence of course. I want to give him the benefit of a doubt and assume that, as he mentioned at some point, he assimilated, to write about them he needed to look at the world like them. And interfering, of course, would have lead for them not to want him there. But in the later writing... People say he wasn't supposed to analyze, only observe and describe. But he did analyze, more or less obviously. Kenge was a very good brother, according to him, and yet he beat the crap out of his sister cuz she had a mind of her own. Another guy said that he was pleased with his wife and didn't need to beat her that often, and everyone was pleased. The descriptive words given to such beatings were "healthy", "sound", "good" etc. Framing the events like that is analyzing them and giving them a positive or a negative description. Second thing, was that I feel that the book was supposed to make us feel inspired by the spirituality, and how we've been too modernized to be happy and grateful for simple things, as people should. And it's such bullshit, pardon my French. It reeks of exotification and how simple but wise they are and how we all should learn. That faux- spirituality aspect really annoyed me, to be honest. Also, btw, last chapters were repeating large portions of the beginning or was I losing my mind? I'm not going to speculate whether or not they are good people. I was much more interested in the scholar aspect of it and if Turnbull was reliable enough... and I'm still not sure. Also, none of them are probably alive anymore, how's that for a dark ending?

  • Laila Ulfa
    2019-03-14 15:22

    This book led me to the understanding of the world that I could never imagine before. The more I read it, the more I was immersed in it. Having antropology background, I fell into the mirage of how interesting, challenging and fascinating it was. To live in with the people who literally had different culture, yet I also realise it is not as easy as it is written hence you are an outsider. BaMbuti Pygmies are also just people. They are just perceived wrongly by the people who don’t live in the forest—People who don’t understand them. For me, M. Collin Turnbul successfully delivered the world of the forest people (Pygmies’ way of life), as well put himself as part of them and pulled out the ethnocentrism by understanding their way of lives from their point of view.

  • Benjamin
    2019-03-15 12:33

    If you go deep into the what was then the Belgian Congo, and get into the woods, it isn't The Heart of Darkness that you find, but rather an entire tribe acting like the Three Stooges, and singing about how Darkness is Good. According to Tolkein, the People of the Forest are tall, white, pointy-eared contemplative keepers of some kind of high culture. The reality is they are short, and dark, and tend to laugh so hard that they roll around the ground, clutching their sides. Instead of pointy ears, they have filed teeth.My favorite chapter was the one about the ceremony when a girl first gets her period. All the women go into a specially built hut to celebrate this blessing ... contrast that with the Curse, Eve's punishment type crap we get. The women and girls make themselves extra beautiful by oiling up and getting shiny and also doing things like painting stars on their butts. Then they go around whipping the boys and men they like. The men and boys respond by firing banana peels out of sling shots back at the women. Men who have been whipped are expected to visit the women's hut at night. They will have to fight their way past the older women... the mothers of the unmarried women... if they are valiant and liked by the moms, they will get in. Going all the way and spending the night means staying in the women's hut for the rest of the ceremony which is, like, a month, and also basically means you have to marry so typically they just flirt a little and then leave again.But the whole book is filled with stuff like that, that was just my favorite bit. There were some parts where I wasn't sure if it was just Turnbull's take on things or if he was really explaining how the Mbuti feel about or think about something... and then, it's from the 1950s, and he's a guy... it just seemed like there was stuff a female researcher or a more contemporary ethnography might include... so I had some questions about women's lives and there were a couple of characters I thought might be queer but Turnbull just writes things like "confirmed bachelor" or "Kidaya was handsome rather than pretty, and she had a reputation for being able to beat up even the strongest youths if their advances were not welcome to her..." later Kidaya is seen upset because the other Mbuti are staring at her when she makes some noises with a gourd that sound like some of the man-only noises made at some other ceremony. Considering that the Mbuti are one of the most gender-equality cultures known... with women always participating in the hunt and men often participating in child care and neither task viewed as more or less worthy... essentially no division of labor on gender lines... the stuff in their culture where gender counts ought to maybe get more attention.On the other hand, there's plenty of laughs as the Mbuti play tricks on the Bantu villagers and of course mess with the anthropologist and generally just start hitting each other over the head with logs from the fire... The Forest is Good.

  • Andrew
    2019-03-16 15:31

    Last year I heard a really interesting radio documentary about the author Colin M Turnbull; educated at Westminster school he then served in the navy during the war, in the 1950's he spent three years living with the Bambuti pygmy's of the Belgian Congo before moving to America and lecturing, he lived with his African American partner in a American town where interacial gay relationships were unheard of, his partner died of aids and he buried his soul in a grave next to him before becoming a budhist, he died in 1994 of aids related illness. I was so fascinated that I ordered the book and it came duly dog eared with lots of underlining and margin notes of I presume an anthropology student. It's a wonderful book. The book is less a text , more a story of a mans love of the forest tribe. He humanises the people and their fascinating rituals associated with their worship of the forest. Some of these rituals are so brilliantly portrayed particularly the molimo where the men sing and play instruments as the sounds of the forest. It also shows these people as mischevious and full of humour with vivid images of them falling around laughing in the forest clearings and joking with Turnbull about his size. The relationship with the villagers as well was fascinating, the villagers feeling they own the pygmy's who then dissapear into the forest to hunt and then come back and 'steal' from the villagers. Other aspects include how tribesmen who steal are disciplined, what happens when girls reach maturity ( comically seeing Turnbull being chased through the forests) and the horrendous circumcision ceremony. The last few chapters are poignant as Turnbull's friend Kenge is taken by him ito the grasslands where he is astounded by the spaces, mountains and animals. Overall this is a moving picture of a people who perhaps 50 years on are probably significantly changed, by a writer who clearly loves these people and writes in a manner that focuses on the Bambuti and puts himself modestly in the background.Brilliant.

  • Jacqui
    2019-03-09 12:17

    I just finished a wonderful book, Colin Turnbull’s The Forest People. Turnbull lived ‘a while’ (pygmies don't measure time with a watch or a calendar) with African pygmies to understand their life, culture, and beliefs. As he relays events of his visit, he doesn’t lecture, or present the material as an ethnography. It’s more like a biography of a tribe. As such, I get to wander through their lives, see what they do, how they do it, what’s important to them, without any judgment or conclusions other than my own.One point that became clear early on is that pygmies have no leaders. How can that be, you might ask? Doesn’t somehow just assume that mantle? Well, until I read this book, I would have agreed whole-heartedly, but that doesn’t seem to happen. A tribe member might demand everyone go hunting with him (it takes a large group to capture/kill the forest animals) and people may go, or they may not. Whatever they feel like. When they move to a new camp, houses and furniture must be built. People may start full of energy and ambition, promising to help neighbors and build big houses with multiple rooms. And then the builders dwindle away as some other adventure grabs their attention. They might finish, maybe not. Often, they'll use some of their neighbor’s roof leaves, or even his house until their own house is built.Most surprisingly, I have yet to discover if they have a belief in a god. They don’t pray for help, for food or safety, for anything. If life doesn’t seem quite right, the closest they get to wishing it was better is to return to the forest where life is always good, to a camp surrounded by the depths of the jungle, where outsiders are afraid to go. But the forest isn’t their god, it’s merely where life is always good.Hmmm. I have to ponder this…

  • Bill O'driscoll
    2019-03-11 11:33

    British researcher Turnbull's classic account of life among a tribe of Pygmies in the 1950s. The book is written for a popular audience and is very accessible and quite engaging. The level of intimacy and understanding that Turnbull achieved through extended stays with the tribe is striking; he got to know them both as a group and as individuals. Perhaps most importantly, he did his research at a time when, although the Pygmies had more and more contact with the world of civilization, many traditional ways still held sway. (And Turnbull, again through careful observation, is especially good at disentangling Pygmy behavior among the villagers with whom they have a longstanding symbiotic, but not terribly respectful, relationship, with how they comport themselves in the forest.) Also striking: Although its members emerge as individuals, with discrete personalities, the tribe is truly a collective, and members recognize its survival as more important than the wishes of any one individual -- just as they credit their well-being to the beneficence of "the forest," which/who is essentially indistinguishable from their god. For extra credit, seek out "Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest," the amazing Smithsonian Folkways CD that compiles Turnbull's classic field recordings of the tribe's music, which is central to their culture.

  • N. Jr.
    2019-03-17 08:10

    Although written by an anthropologist, Colin Turnbull described the life of the Mbuti pygmies with such color, exuberance, detail and a healthy dash of humor that you cannot help but be entranced by this book. It reads like a novel, not a diary or journal. The author lived for three years with them in the Ituri Forest in northwestern Belgian Congo (later Zaire, now DR of Congo). His affection for them is immediately apparent, and his intimate descriptions of individuals allow the reader to enjoy the characters in the book and their lives.However, there are times when either the author is taking the mickey out of you, or else the Mbuti are taking the mickey out of him. When he takes a few of them on a drive out of the forest into the savanna where buffalo are grazing they wonder what kind of ants are those animals. The animals are far far away, but the people have never ever seen an open vista, so they assume the animals are very close. Good for a few chuckles, but not believable.In any case, you won't be disappointed reading this book. Instead, you will feel like your are eating a delicious meal with a fine wine, a trip into another world that is almost certainly gone by now, 60 years on.

  • Megan [I'm okay, I'm alright]
    2019-02-27 15:27

    I'm so glad I got to read this book for my Cultural Anthropology class. It was extremely interesting and well written. I feel like all these people are my friends now, especially Colin (the author/anthropologist/narrator) and Kenge. There are so many good quotes I want to be able to share, but for now, here's just one to try and make you understand why I love these people so much."There, in the tiny clearing, splashed with silver, was the sophisticated Kenge, clad in bark cloth, adorned with leaves, with a flower stuck in his hair. He was all alone, dancing around and singing softly to himself as he gazed up at the treetops. Now Kenge was the biggest flirt for miles, so, after watching a while, I came into the clearing and asked, jokingly, why he was dancing alone. He stopped, turned slowly around and looked at me as though I was the biggest fool he had ever seen; and he was plainly surprised by my stupidity. 'But I'm not dancing alone,' he said. 'I am dancing with the forest, dancing with the moon.' Then, with the utmost unconcern, he ignored me and continued his dance of love and life."

  • Audrey
    2019-03-02 10:33

    This book was recommended in a world music class, and may be one of the best takeaways I have from that class. Turnbull lived with the BaMbuti pygmies and gives a detailed and intimate look at their world. He was one of the few people at that time who was able to live with and study the BaMbuti without being chaperoned by the neighboring non-pygmy villagers, and was able to learn much about the pygmies without viewing them through their neighbors' biases. The portrait he paints is of a people who are intimately entwined with the forest they live in, and of the complexities of a small group society. He never falls into the trap of painting them as "noble savages" or of demeaning them as unsophisticated children. More than once Turnbull is shown that what initially seems simplistic is hiding a deeper meaning that most of the outside world will never be privy to. Ritual is balanced with practicality, sometimes to his dismay. This is the most honest anthropological study I've ever read, revealing as much about the ethnographer as it does the people he is studying.

  • Nicki Markus
    2019-03-07 11:37

    Only once in my recollection have I ever put a book aside unfinished (Tristram Shandy), but I nearly made it twice with this one. The only thing that kept me reading till the end was the fact that it was for a book club I've just joined and I felt compelled to finish - especially as it's my first book with them.What didn't I like? I can't really put my finger on it to be honest. I am always interested in other cultures etc so this should have been one I'd enjoy, but I simply found it dull. Nothing inspired me to turn the next page and I found myself skim-reading chunks of it.That said, I didn't hate it and the odd chapters made me smile, but I just couldn't muster much enthusiasm for the book as a whole sadly.

  • Valerie
    2019-03-05 08:14

    Turnbull was a good publicist for the BaMbuti, and made sure their view of things was given a fair hearing. One interesting point is that the neighboring BaNtu farmers believed that the Pygmies had cursed the forest land so that it lost fertility if converted to farmland. Of course, forest land is always nutrient-poor. A forest is a bootstrapping system that supplies its own nutrients, mostly, so naturally the land lost fertility if you removed the nutrient sources. But it served the BaMbuti's purposes to encourage the 'curse' idea--they apparently became quite masterly at keeping outsiders out of their forest.

  • Kassie
    2019-03-21 09:22

    This book read like a memoir instead of a scientific ethnography WHICH I LOVEDBut I can't help but keep in mind the criticisms of this book when I read contemplating the fact that turnbull was romanticizing the Pygmies and their culture. And that's a problem when looking at an ethnography.With that being said, great book! I still highly recommend!

  • HogaiAryoubi
    2019-03-14 08:13

    Beautiful Ethnography

  • Mo
    2019-03-25 12:13

    An anthropology about the authors experiences when living with a Pygmy tribe. Very interesting and informative.

  • Nathan Leslie
    2019-03-05 10:37

    This is one of those books that might hit a raw nerve. Works of anthropology are difficult because they become entangled with cultural norms, issues of idealization/demonization and the seemingly constantly shifting and touchy/sensitive topics which pertain to books of this sort. I've seen a few reviews here which indicate that this is a book of "popular anthropology" and essentially a work of entertainment. However, what makes this book a classic perhaps is its readability and immersive nature. I am not an anthropologist or an expert on the Pygmies of the Congo, so I cannot ultimately be a judge on such issues or on Turnbull's anthropological approach. It is a terrific read though, and that counts for something to me.

  • Fictionista Du Jour
    2019-02-28 09:24

    Read for a Cultural Anthro class. Given the time-frame, the "white savior" lens is to be expected, but still distracted me from the actual population being described. I found myself torn away several times to watch youtube videos of the Ituri forest people. I highly recommend this approach.

  • Meredith
    2019-03-17 10:23

    This was amazing! It gave me a real feel for being in the forest with the Mbuti; I am now nostalgic for what I haven't had. What's distinctive about this ethnography is that Turnbull lived in the forest with the people and talks about them as individuals, as neighbors, not as a scholar would about a culture he's inspecting like a bug. I loved getting to know them (of course, through Turnbull's eyes and biases), seeing the variation in their behavior just as I would if I were looking at my own neighbors, my own town.Crucial to read! Axiomatic!

  • Fiona
    2019-03-06 14:29

    I loved this book, with his observations not only of the people but of their forest home

  • Amanda Miller
    2019-03-06 13:12

    Very interesting book. Introduces the reader to a new world.

  • Brooke
    2019-03-22 14:30

    Had to read for a Sociology course.. enjoyed his experiences living among the BaMbuti Pygmies.

  • Ilona E.
    2019-03-04 09:22

    Well, my professor said we'd probably like it, and he did not lie.

  • Rachel
    2019-03-20 13:21

    Well first off, it was a surprisingly EASY read ... breezed right through the thing. What I remembered in particular was the elima of course, which at times made me laugh out loud. I also found their system of punishment interesting. While it was threatened that certain actions could result in banishment etc it seemed that very rarely were these punishments carried out. Hostilities would be direced towards the accused for a few days and perhaps the guilty one would go off into the forest by himself for a day only to come back and everyone would act as if nothing had happened. The bambuti also possess a striking sense of humor. One thing that did bother me a bit however, was their treatment towards animals. They believed that the animals were placed on earth for their benefit so why bestow ANY sympathy on the creatures. It also seemed as though some of their traditions were only carried out for the SAKE of tradition. Perhaps that is due to their interaction with villagers ... etc. Very engaging read. I might read it again.

  • Stephanie
    2019-03-23 08:07

    Turnbull lived with a Pygmy tribe in central Africa for three years, and narrates his experiences in this book, focusing especially on the musical orientation the people have towards their forest home, as reflected in the nightly month-long ritual, the molimo. His descriptions of the music are alluringly disorienting, as the sounds of the molimo reverberate through the forest all around the singers, now mimicking a herd of elephants, now a growling tiger, and again, the voices of the singers themselves--near and far, its enchanting spells drawing the men to dance through the fire. Accompany your reading of this book with the recordings Mr. Turnbull made of the people's songs, available, I believe, on Folkways. Google Turnbull's name and you'll find sites on which you'll be able to hear samples of the people's songs. You can explore further at National Geographic's web site, where articles about the contemporary plight of these and other tribal groups are available.