March 30, 2015

1507 BURUNDI - Batwa people and their pottery

The Great Lakes Twa (Batwa in English) are a pygmy people, generally considered to be the oldest population of the Great Lakes region, though currently they live as a Bantu caste. Current populations (approximately 80,000 people) are found in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and the eastern portion of the DR Congo. Traditionally, they have been a semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers of the mountain forests living in association with agricultural villages. When the Hutu arrived in the region, they subjugated the people that they called Abatwa, the ancestors of the Batwa. Around the 15th century, the Tutsi arrived and dominated both the Hutu and the Twa, creating a three-caste society with the Tutsi governing, the Hutu the bulk of the population, and the Twa at the bottom of the social scale.

Unusually for Pygmies, who generally trade meat for agricultural products, iron, and pottery, the batwa are themselves potters. Actually, when they were driven out of their forest, many turned to pottery and to some extent, this craft is now synonymous with their ethnic identity. More than this, unable to obtain secure land for farming or for building upon, many became dependent on pottery as their only reliable source of income. Those who don't work as potters are day laborers, small-scale cultivators or beggars. They claimed that up until the 1970s pottery had provided a small but dependable income, but afterward the industrially produced jerricans, basins, bowls, plates, etc became widely popular, so this competition forced Batwa to keep their prices low, so the real income gained from pottery fell. Additionally, access to clay became increasingly difficult as land pressure encouraged farmers to reclaim clay marshes for cultivation.

About the stamp
The stamp, depicting Homoderus mellyi and Leonotis leonurus, is part of a series issued in 2014.

Great Lakes Twa - Wikipedia
Batwa - Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization

Sender:  Deo Niyongeso
Sent from Nyanza Lac (Burundi), on 06.03.2015 

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