Up Close: The Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest

Magnum photographer Michael Christopher Brown spends time with one of the most ancient tribes in Central Africa, as they adapt to the challenges of being forced off their land.

  • Words + Photography: Michael Christopher Brown

I visited some of the Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, late in 2015. In this image, men discuss where to hunt monkeys that afternoon. The group that I photographed, consisting of several families, had been forced to leave their forest as it became a national park. They were then banned from hunting and living off the land, so they moved closer to society.

Pygmy populations that are geographically close to Congolese society are often servants to the local Bantu people, working and hunting for them in order to obtain modern goods.

Mbuti Pygmies, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Though they are said to be the oldest inhabitants of Central Africa, they do not have Congolese identity cards and are often mocked and derided. There have even been UN reports of one rebel group eating pygmies in the early 2000s, though some say this has always occurred.

Michael Christopher Brown is an American photographer, nominated to Magnum Photos in 2013

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