Africa Direct
Africa Direct

Ituri Rainforest

Location: Far Eastern Democratic Rep of the Congo
Population: Unknown, composed of many small groups

Arts: The Ituri Rainforest is part of an enormous and globally important ecosystem which lies just to the west of the Great Lakes Region and the countries of Uganda and Tanzania. It is home to many rare animals and plants, as well as numerous human cultures which are barely understood. Many, in fact, remain unnamed! Those groups which have been named are often referred to simply by the regions they inhabit, or the rivers along which they live. A few of these groups are the Hema, Shi, Ndaaka, Ngiri, Mbira, Lombi, Yela, and Lendu, among others. Their arts are thought to be used for circumcisions and initiations, though this is more extrapolation than the result of actual investigation by ethnologists. The rare okapi, the world's most endangered antelope, lives in Ituri, as well as some of the last surviving mountain and lowland gorillas. Artistically, Ituri peoples are interrelated to such an extent that styles, shapes, and coloration tend to coalesce. The uniting factor in Ituri art is a naive, distant charm, full of mystery, integrating stylistic elements that are found in some well-known groups, the Lega in particular. On a whole, the carvings of this area, except for those of the Lega, who live on the far western margins of the forest, are poorly understood. In the past, this was a function of isolation and the dense, dangerous, almost impenetrable forests. Today, however, it is primarily due to the bloody civil unrest which has plagued the region for many years. Sadly, the masks and very rare statues have come to light only in the last quarter century, a result of the scattering of cultures, who have abandoned their homelands, looking for food and trying to escape the fighting.

History: Unknown, at best anecdotal, and speculative.


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