Akowa Pygmies

Akowa / Akoa / Bakowa


Population & Ecosystem

327 Akowa Pygmies live in the coastal forested areas of Port-Gentil , Omboue and Gamba (Gabon)


Economy & Society

The Akowa have recently changed from being nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled villagers with subsistence agriculture supplemented by hunting. In the early 20th century they were fully nomadic and physically distinct from their Bantu neighbours, but by the mid-20th century they were starting to settle and to become physically indistinguishable.


Culture & Religion

The Akowa Pygmies together with the Babongo are the originators of the Bwiti religion and the use of iboga, said to have been discovered a thousand years ago. The ceremonies are always led by a healer called N’ganga who is the spiritual leader of the community. Men’s rituals are led by a male N’ganga and women’s rituals by a female. There are separate temples for men and women and the instruments used are also different; the main instrument being an 8-string Ngombi harp for women and Mongongo mouth-bow for men. Lots of percussion, hand clapping, and singing accompanies the ritual which has been said to help induce trance states.