Batwa, Self-Portraits, 2012
The Ba-twa are the third largest ethnic group in Burundi. Better known (to us) as “Pygmies”, an indigenous minority group (represented by less than 1% of the population compared to 85% of the Hutus and 14% of the Tutsis), they are the first inhabitants of the country. Exiled from their natural habitat with the advent of agriculture and deforestation and thus forced to work for others to survive, mistreated and exploited for centuries, they now live on the margins of the political and economic scene.
Photography has played an important role in constructing the stereotype that there is a ‘modern’, ‘technological’, ‘advanced’ world (ours) and a ‘primitive’, ‘inexperienced’, ‘backward’ world (the Pygmies’).
In 2012 I set up a small photographic studio in a small house for travelers run by nuns at the edge of the Kibira rainforest, in northern Burundi. Then I invited the members of the Batwa community living there to come and take pictures of themselves with the camera’s self-timer. To decide, themselves for once, when and how to photograph themselves. The following series is the result of this encounter.