Blood timber, the tragedy of the people of the forest

May 2017

East Cameroon


Blood timber is a project shot between 2016 and 2017 in the heart of the forest, a few miles North of Mambele (East of Cameroon), right to the border between Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Congo.

The forest there is one of the
most spectacular places on Earth in terms of flora and fauna – And it’s also one of the most sacred places for the Baka Pygmies. Of course, all the other players are around there: logging companies, heavily armed poachers, gold-seekers - Demons are never too far from Paradise. 



Whoever travels from Europe to Central Africa flies over an infinite blanket of trees, dense and humid. It's the Congo Basin, the widely unexplored heart of Africa, and the second largest tropical forest in the world after the Amazon.
This unique ecosystem boasts some of the world’s natural wonders, millions of birds, more than 10,000 species of plants and large mammals such as elephants, gorillas and leopards. It is still one of the least explored places on Earth: stretching from the Atlantic Coast to Lake Tanganyka, the Congo Basin is half the size of Europe… But for how long? What exists since the Earth was created can vanish within months. The
Congo Basin is no exception: the forest is dying. Tons of precious wood is being extracted every day, legally and illegally – The forest loses the size of 500 football fields every year. Anthropologists and humanitarians often call this wood “Blood Timber”. When you enter the forest with trucks and people, you remove the sacred status of this sanctuary, which offers shelter and resources to more than 60 million people: logging companies need roads and roads give access to poachers, illegal bush meat traders, as well as diamond and gold seekers.
An African philosopher once said: “When a tree falls, it makes noise, but when the forest grows, you can’t hear it”, nor when the forest dies, nor when people die. Because, above all, this silent tragedy is also the tragedy of the Pygmies.
The West calls the original inhabitants of the Congo Basin Pygmies, but they call themselves Bambuti, Babinga, Baka, Aka, Batwa, Bagyeli and in many other ways. They are one of the oldest civilisations on Earth, a people of hunters and gatherers, who know the forest better than anyone.
Nobody knows how many Pygmies there are, they have no ID, no passport, they do not vote, and children have no access to education. They do not exist, because if they exist, they must have rights, and no one
wants them to have rights, especially rights over their land.
Ruled by land reforms that are kept secret to the Pygmies, the region is exploited by local and foreign companies who enrich governments and themselves by paying concessions to cut trees and for digging for minerals
and precious metals. The Pygmies are being pushed out of their forests.
Jengi, which means ‘spirit of the forest’, is the only common word for every Pygmy language and dialects.
The spirit of the forest…


When I first I arrived in the village of Parny, 400 km from Bertoua in Eastern Cameroon and a 10 hour drive on a dirt road, it’s early morning, a dense fog lays on the forest and the air is dense and white as cotton candy.
The forest is silent as she is waking, very slowly figures come out of the fog as ghosts in the night.
Children of all ages are walking to school, running and carrying the little ones on their backs or pulling them by their arms. some of them have no shoes, some others wear broken clothes and some others wear their empty backpacks on their shoulders.
The Pygmies are often stigmatised and discriminated by their teachers, students and in general by the other members in society. Because of their different way of living, they are marginalised, they do not have any representatives in government nor in local communities and are obliged to face discrimination every day, which endanger and accuse them because of their race. Pygmies are considered less than nothing and they are exploited by all the other ethic groups in the forest.
Pygmies aware of their rights as human beings can support their birth right to live in the forest of their ancestors as well as to protect its flora and fauna. Education is their life-link to the future since the forest is dying day by day and one day they will be obliged to modify considerably their habits and ways of living.
With this project, I would like to tell the world about “Blood Timber”, about the tragedy taking place in the Congo Basin. Because history always repeats the same mistakes, from native Americans to the original inhabitants of the Pacific, hundreds of millions of innocent people have been destroyed because of greed by some large corporations as well as governments, no one should think today is different, innocent people still die every day for a few grams of gold.

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