During her residency, artist Ruth Belinga travels to southern Cameroon to meet with Pygmy communities living in the equatorial forest. Having grown up in Ebolowa, a city located in the heart of the equatorial forest, Belinga has always been sensitive to the ecological issues and the extinction of these communities.
The Pygmies are the first inhabitants of the Cameroonian forest and are a minority of the population in Cameroon. There are several communities within the Pygmy peoples, notably the Bakas living in the southeast region of Cameroon. Through her project, Garden of Eden, Belinga was interested in the Bakas's ancestral way of living, particularly their extensive knowledge of hunting, gathering and fishing.
Belinga explains that previously the Pygmy peoples lived in community and were protected by the forest, a place that has been (and still is to this day) their habitat, spiritual mother and source of food. However, exploitation and industrialization of the forest in the Bipindi region, which continues to go deeper and deeper into the forest, is a real threat to the life and survival of these peoples. The Pygmies are, unfortunately, strongly marginalized and experience profound racism, socially, economically and politically.
During her stay, Belinga explored the territories inhabited by the Bakas and discuss with them about their relationship to the forest, their way of life and on how they experience deforestation, forest exploitation and industrialization. They also discuss the threats to their territories and their communities. Based on these discussions, Belinga decided to write stories inspired by the realities of the Pygmy communities.