Photographic Anthropology

In the Amazon, there are still tribes that have had no contact with the modern world - at least no face to face contact. A group of such tribes in Brazil, near the border with Peru, have just been photographed from the air by the Brazilian government in order to 'prove their existence'. Apparently their habitat is under threat from loggers. Which is not a surprise. Brazil also has a policy of 'non-contact' in order to allow these tribes to continue their way of life undisturbed. Undisturbed that is except for the aeroplane circling above them. To get an idea of what they thought of this, take a look at the photograph below.

Members of the tribe are seen covered in paint brandishing their weapons at the aircraft
Photograph: Survival International /Reuters

It seems that the plane made several passes. After the first one, the members of the tribe painted themselves red and armed themselves. I wonder if non-contact of this sort is at all beneficial. I also wonder if the loggers actually care whether these people exist or not, though I like the idea that these photographs are proof of their existence, especially as the veracity of the photographic image is a favourite conversation topic amongst critics and theorists.

For more on this story and news on similar tribes around the globe take a look at the Survival International organisation.

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