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The Twa 

The Twa are a pygmy people who are the original inhabitants of central Africa in the Rwanda, Burundi, and Cameroon.  They have since, through subjugation by other groups and the result of deforestation been reduced to less then 1% of the population.  As the more dominant Tutsi and Hutu have moved into the areas previously occupied by the Twa the Twa have been diminished.  They were installed as the lowest caste in society.  There are two main groups of Twa, ones that live in the forest using hunter gatherer techniques and those that live on the surrounding farm areas and are day workers on fields owned by Hutu and Tutsi families.  Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa and as such has probably experienced some of the heaviest conflict in various attempts to mass land.

In the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda came at a time when the Twa were just beginning to set up organizations to improve their social situation.  However, in the battle between the Tutsi and the Hutu the Twa were considered easy targets and were targeted as supporters of the Tutsi, about 30% of the Twa were killed in the violence, compared to about 14% of the Rwandan population as a whole.  Many have fled the country and only about 40% of the pre-war population remains in Rwanda.   

Culture

The Twa are famous as musicians and dancers and are a definite majority in national dance and music circles.  They have also been famous for their pottery, however, with the rise in plastics and factory made pottery their market has gradually disintegrated.  

Most Twa live in round grass huts in farming areas scattered throughout the hills.  The women dress in brightly colored wrap skirts and men traditionally wear all white.  They eat mainly sweet potatoes and beans, millet and some corn with milk being drunk on occasion.

An awale game, popular in areas of Rwanda (M-150)

Favorite pastimes include singing, dance, and verse telling as well as games of awale and the ever popular soccer.   

 

History

The country of Rwanda has been dominated by the Twa until about 1000 A.D.  From the horn of Africa the Tutsi's who were a cattle raising nomadic people arrived and set up control over Rwanda.  These people and the Hutu's set themselves up as the governing classes, as Europeans settled in the area they granted more power to the Tutsi people because of their racial differences.  At Germany's defeat after World War 1 Belgium took control of Rwanda and replaced all Hutu chiefs with Tutsi's and required all people to carry an identity card which identified a person based on their race.  However, both groups were severely subjugated by the Belgians who used the people as forced labor and treated them horribly.  When the ruling Tutsi's started to rebel against Belgium the government started to replace the Tutsi chiefs with Hutu's.  Finally, on July 1, 1962 independence was given to Rwanda and subsequently 10,000-100,000 Tutsi's were killed.  Hundreds of thousands fled the country and Hutu rulers started to establish ethnic quotas on the remaining Tutsi limiting access to education and health care.  In the midst of all this conflict the Twa have held a particularly vulnerable position as a fringe group which receives harassment and persecution on both sides.

 

Right now things are still very difficult for the Twa, because of the lack of land they possess and very little access to education they have.

More African Groups

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