A Photographer Domenico Pugliese has claimed he witnessed a close-to-extinction Amazonian tribe breastfeed their pets until the animals are fully grown. The Awa tribe reside in the forests of eastern Brazil, and face a possible end to their culture, due to European colonists who have enslaved them and stolen their land. The tribe are protected from modern society and are rarely seen.
Domenico Pugliese claims to be one of the few outsiders who has spent time with the tribe, photographing their way of life. He claimed the main aspect of modern society the tribe did not understand was his single marital status.
“They do not understand what a grown man is doing being single, without a family,” he said. “They look at me and they try to give me advice. They do not know where I am coming from. They do not have a concept of the world. “I cannot explain to them where I’m coming from, I can’t explain the lifestyle to them. For them, it is unbelievable to be a man who does not have a family.”
Family life is a fundamental aspect of the Awa culture, a value which Mr Pugliese said extends to their pets, including pigs, parakeets, squirrels, agouti and monkeys. According to Mr Pugliese, pets are considered family in the same way children are. He said the pets gather food, crack nuts, and protect the tribe at night. Mr Pugliese said women in the tribe even breastfeed some of the animals. “They feed the squirrels and monkeys like they feed their kids, breastfeeding,” he said. “It highlights how far we have come from where we were. They are so close to nature. In fact, it is not even close – they are part of nature.”
Mr Pugliese said he was worried about exposing the tribe to the modern day world – but they embraced at least one contemporary item. “They love to have t-shirts,” he said. “I don’t know where they think the t-shirts come from – they can’t imagine a factory. “Maybe they think it is coming from the trees. After all, every day, they get their shopping from the jungles.”
Before Portuguese settlers landed in the area 500 years ago, tens of thousands of Awa people were believed to have lived in the Amazon. There are now believed to be only 400 left in the tribe.