A Batwa origin myth relates that God tested three brothers, Gutwa, Guhutu and Gututsi, with a calabash of milk each and told them they could not drink it for one night. Gutwa drank his share immediately, Guhutu did not drink it but fell asleep and spilled half of it, while Gututsi successfully passed the test. As a result God gave him dominion over cattle, he gave the Guhutu the next best, dominion over farming, and banished Gutwa to the forest. This myth is obviously of pastoral origin but has passed into Batwa culture, as one of their own and reflects their understanding of fate, to which they have become submissive.
Variants of this story and other such myths can also be understood as cultural propaganda extolling pastoral superiority. If it had been written from a hunter gatherer perspective then Gutwa would have been the winner as he rejected a useless food and was rewarded with the forest’s bounty while cattle and crop farmers were punished by having to work for their food.
George Schaller recorded a farming myth in 1959: “Woto, the fourth chief of the Bushongo, left his people and retired into the forest. He found himself very lonely and uttered an incantation. Thereupon the trees opened and sent forth a multitude of little beings. When asked what people they were, they answered ‘Binu Batwa’ (We are men).”
Photo: Marcus Westberg
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