GABON: Bwiti

Most focus on Bwiti seems to be a little superficial – a lot of media characterizes it as a “religion” and there’s a lot of attention from Western lenses on the fact that practices often include the psychedelic iboga root. But Bwiti is really more of a spiritual discipline focused on healing than a standalone religion – it’s flexible and syncretic and incorporates traditional elements of African spirituality, local medicinal plants, plus occasional elements from Christianity. If you speak French, here’s an interesting clip from a larger doc on Bwiti:

And in English, an interview with Moughenda, a Bwiti spiritual leader about the importance of self-knowledge and connection to nature, history, and culture, and why many people turn to Bwiti for healing.

Bwiti isn’t a practice that’s closed off, and there are many videos of initiations and healing ceremonies online. A lot of these vids try to play up the “exotic” lens, but this one below is pretty solid, including comments from practitioners themselves about what’s taking place and why:

Music is a big part of Bwiti ceremonies as well, and often features the ngombi harp and the ngongo mouth bow, plus percussion and singing. Here’s a couple good examples with beautiful complex polyrhythms and use of both male and female voices.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s