An Amazon tribe thought to be dying out is thriving against the odds – in pictures by smagni | May 2, 2017 | OF INTEREST | 0 comments The Guardian – Katherine Needles Once thought to be on the brink of extinction, photographer Katherine Needles finds Peru’s Amahuaca people flourishing on ancestral lands, united by community and kinship The city of Atalaya sits where the Urubamba and Tambo rivers meet, in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. It is the closest jungle city to the Amahuaca’s remote village of San Juan, a two-day upriver journey by pekepeke (motorised canoe). The Amahuaca, once thought to be at the brink of extinction, still live on ancestral lands in relative isolation. Although their culture is threatened by various forms of western development, a resilience of community and kinship unites the Amahuaca. Photograph: Katherine Needles Facebook Twitter Pinterest San Juan is the second largest Amahuaca village on the banks of the Inuya river. No more than 40 people live in the village at any one time. Margarita (around 65 years old) is one of the only elders left with knowledge of the old ways. After greeting us on arrival with a meal of boiled yucca and fish in broth, she listens to questions from anthropologist Christopher Hewlett about the Amahuaca’s myths of origin and creation. Photograph: Katherine Needles Facebook Twitter Pinterest A school lesson in the largest Amahuaca village on the Inuya, San Martin, is a five-hour journey downriver from San Juan. A young boy is distracted while others stand to recite the Peruvian national anthem before starting their lesson. The influence of Peruvian national policy and education is prevalent even in these remote places, where there is no running water or electricity. Most children must wear a uniform and sing the national anthem before starting each day. Photograph: Katherine Needles Facebook Twitter Pinterest The bow and arrow was the traditional method of fishing off the water’s edge but today, the Amahuaca use nets or large spears and fish from their canoes. The bow and arrow is now seen more as a toy for young boys, though there is evidence the method is making a comeback. Although fishing is the main source of protein for the Amahuaca, they do still hunt. Photograph: Katherine Needles Facebook Twitter Pinterest On a fishing trip upriver, Percy (42), a Yaminahua man who married an Amahuaca woman, catches more than 20 kawara, a large prehistoric-looking fish. This is in preparation for the Fiesta de San Juan, a national holiday that takes place each year on 24 June. It is celebrated throughout the country in honour of the solstice. The Amahuaca host a football tournament between local villages along the river. They grill the kawara and serve it with rice wrapped in a banana leaf. Photograph: Katherine Needles Facebook Twitter Pinterest Other Amahuaca families live even more remotely than those in San Juan, close to the border with Brazil. This man is called Ayahuasceiro to account for his suspected use of the hallucinogenic plant Ayahuasca, known to be used in Amahuaca communities in the past. He insisted on being photographed in a uniform used by petroleros, men who work for the oil and gas companies in the region, an example of how wearing Western clothing is a way of demonstrating one is civilisado. Photograph: Katherine Needles Facebook Twitter Pinterest Preparing for the Fiesta de San Juan, women and children gather around baskets of yucca that have been collected from their family chakras (plantations) to peel and boil to make masato (fermented yucca beer). Masato is only made and served by women. It takes at least four days to ferment and is drunk throughout the festival into the night and the following morning. Enough is made to serve at least 100 people over the two days of the festival. Photograph: Katherine Needles Facebook Twitter Pinterest To support the fermentation process of masato, woman chew on a purple yam grown in the region and spit it into the large pots of yucca being mashed down. The purple yam is said to be what makes ‘real’ or ‘good’ masato, and how well a woman can spit into the pot is said to be indicative of her womanhood in Amahuaca culture. Girls are taught how to stand over the pots and spit in a way that sprays the purple mash evenly. Photograph: Katherine Needles Facebook Twitter Pinterest Margarita poses outside her home covered in ouito, a fruit-based dye that is painted on using various sizes of carved twigs to create distinctive patterns. It is painted on clear and transforms into a deep black ink within hours, remaining on the skin for at least three weeks. Margarita is one of the last elders of her community who uses ouito, believed to help ward off evil spirits and used decoratively during traditional celebrations or ceremonies. Each design represents a sacred animal from the jungle. Photograph: Katherine Needles Facebook Twitter Pinterest Hanka, a young Amahuaca boy adopted by Margarita, sits in a rusted wheelbarrow in the middle of a sea of magenta stamens from a rose apple tree. Unlike other children, Hanka is often painted head to toe in ouito to help protect him against a health condition related to his bladder. Photograph: Katherine Needles Facebook Twitter Pinterest Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Related Submit a Comment Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Name * Email * Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.