Bwiti on BBC

Nick Sandberg nick227 at
Sat Jan 29 13:26:10 EST 2005

Just wondered if anyone saw this programme, screened earlier in the week on
BBC 2 in the UK, and what they thought.


Tribe Ep 4/6
9.00-10.00pm BBC TWO

Explorer Bruce Parry faces one of his toughest tests yet as he is inducted
into Bwiti, a rainforest religion practised by the Babongo people of Gabon.
He’s right to be worried – on occasion the ritual, which involves consuming
an overdose of a powerful hallucinogenic, Iboga, has proved fatal. Tribe
follows Bruce’s build-up to the ceremony, as he goes hunting, collecting
forest honey and spends time getting to know his newfriends, before they
judge the time is right for his “rebirthing” ritual. The drug, Bruce
believes, acts on the areas of the brain where guiltand remorse lie buried,
allowing people to see themselves as they really are, warts and all. His
initiation starts as he is fed the tree root, prompting several hours of
vomiting, said to purge the soul. His tongue is pricked with a needle to
stimulate speech, while his Bwiti “father” feeds strips of the root to him,
singing softly. Bruce’s recollection of the visions that follow include
vivid memories of childhood, harsh recollections of people he had hurt, even
inadvertently, throughout his life, and a sense of the Earth as a vast
living organism in which everything is connected. The final phase of the
journey sees the tribe dancing with fire and encouraging Bruce to make sense
of the shapes he sees in the flames. After reviewing his visions, Bruce is
determined to revisit a few people whose point of view he saw more clearly
while under the influence of the drug, to apologise for any hurt he caused.
Of his emotional experience with the tribe he says: “They have given me
something so special, I shall take a piece of this village [with me]
wherever I go for the rest of my life.”

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