The Batwa (Twa) People of Western Uganda
The Twa (Batwa) people have almost all been forced out of their ancestral forest homes, where they lived as nomadic hunters and gatherers, due to the clearing of forests for agriculture by neighboring tribes or the creation of national park in an effort to conserve the wildlife.
One of Africa’s most ancient tribal groups, the Twa are now faced with a plight common to many indigenous people: they are a marginalized sector of the Ugandan community. Often living in squalid conditions.
Many Ugandans view the Twa with disdain and will tell you they are lazy. But the Twa are uninterested in living in a modern agro-industrial society. Life in the forest was anything but easy, but this is the only life the older generation know, and even those who are making an effort to adopt farming have found it very hard to adopt to modern life.
In many of the places where the Batwa now live, particularly near Lake Bunyonyi and Mgahinga, Bwindi Impenetrable and Semuliki national parks, you will visit one of their villages. The visits invariably involve a song-and-dance demonstration, and once the music begins you can’t help but notice that they project a genuine pride.
Most Twa today still rely on handouts, and so they’re only too happy for a chance to cash in on their culture. In some ways it’s this commercialization of their culture that ensures the survival of the Batwa as a distinct tribal group in Uganda.
The best way to visit the Batwa is through the initiatives in Lake Bunyonyi, Mgahinga gorilla, Bwindi and Semuliki national parks. These allow you to explore the forest with Twa guides, receiving demonstrations on hunting and cultural performances. All money goes to helping the local Batwa community and ultimately preserving their indigenous culture.
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