The Spectacular Return of the Pigmy Mother
In the remote reaches of the Congo, young mothers follow an ancient tradition of living in isolation with their newborns for months or even years. Here’s what happens when they come back.
Text by Laurence Butet-Roch
Covered in red pigment from head to toe and sporting shiny copper anklets, Walé Asongwaka, Walé Lokito and their peers attract much attention — especially given how starkly they contrast with the lush green bush theater built behind them. Pygmies from the Ekonda tribe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they’re continuing a ritual instituted by their ancestors. Following the birth of their first child, some young pigmy mothers - dubbed “Walés” - live with their babies in isolation for months, or even years, a longstanding tradition that aims to protect the family heir.