The Nukak people, a nomadic indian tribe from Amazonia, were violently driven out of their jungle territories by the Colombian civil war. Now they live in refugee camps, stuck between worlds. The Nukak people, nomadic hunter-gatherers from Amazonia violently driven out of their jungle territories, live in a refugee camp close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
The Nukak women have short black hair, they still decorate their faces with ornaments painted with red dye and they keep their eyebrows always plucked. A Nukak woman, having her face decorated with the red dye painted ornaments, lies in a hammock in a refugee settlement close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
At the time of the first contact, the Nukak Maku’s population was about 2000 people. During 20 years most of them have died from flu and pneumonia. Now, there are about 400 Nukak. A Nukak woman washes her baby on the ground in a refugee camp close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
The collision of cultures caused that Nukak can not return to the jungle, to a nomadic lifestyle. They were given and got used to clothes, radios, bicycles and other western stuff. A Nukak boy turns on the radio, given them by missionaries, in a refugee encampment close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
Although Nukak lost their original tribal way of life, they still collect vegetal materials in the jungle (palm leaves e.g.) to make their hammocks. A Nukak woman works with fibres from the palm leaves to make a hammock in a refugee camp close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
The young Nukak boys from refugee camps, influenced by Colombian colonists and missionaries, often adopt Christian symbols and proudly wear them. A young Nukak boy, influenced by Colombian colonists, wears a Christian symbol of cross in a refugee camp close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
Colombians and Nukak do not understand each other. Many villagers believe Nukak women paint themselves to witch a white man. In fact, the red painting has a variety of meanings. A Nukak girl paints ornaments on her face with the red dye in a refugee settlement close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
Nukak people have been naked for thousands years. Now, most Nukak want clothes. They learn from the (mainly Christian) aid workers to cover their bodies. A Nukak woman hangs clothes, given to the tribe by missionaries, in a refugee camp close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
The helicopter of the Colombian Police, flying over the Nukak settlement, protects fumigation planes eradicating coca crops. Nukak are among casualties of the US supported drug war in Colombia. A Nukak man watches a helicopter of the Colombian Police flying over the Nukak settlement close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
The traditional world of Nukak is going through a quick and irreversible change. Nukak kids were born in the jungle but they can not live in there anymore. Nukak kids pass through a dense jungle around their refugee camp close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
In 2007, after the Nukak leader committed suicide by drinking poison, some of the young boys speaking little Spanish became tribe’s spokesmen dealing with the outside world. A young Nukak boy, one of the tribe’s spokesman, stands in a refugee settlement close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
Nukak are nomadic hunter-gatherers, they always have to move to find new territories. As they stuck in a refugee camp, they hunted out all the animals around and now there is nothing left for them. A Nukak hunter is seen with his blowgun in a refugee camp close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
Nukak always lived off fruits and berries they found in the tropical forest. Giving them rice, beans and milk was not a help but an error because their digestion is not able to process western food. A Nukak woman with her children lies in a hammock in a refugee encampment close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.
Nukak treat monkeys as pets until they kill them for food. Nukak say their ancestors climbed from the world underground and now they must share this world with monkeys. A Nukak boy plays with a baby monkey in a refugee camp close to San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia.

Nukak Maku: Stuck between Worlds

Guaviare department, Colombia – September 2009

The Nukak Maku people, a nomadic indian tribe from Amazonia, were violently driven out of the jungle by the Colombian guerilla and paramilitary squads. Since the time of the first contact, more than a half of Nukak have died of the western diseases like flu. Now, roughly cut off their original tribal lifestyle in refugee camps, they stuck between worlds. They learn from the (mainly Christian) aid workers to use clothes, to listen to the radio, to beg for money despite the fact they do not understand these concepts. Although their digestion suffer, they love to eat sweets, cookies and other western food. They have hunted out all the animals around and now there is nothing left for them. Nukak can not return to the jungle, their world has already passed through an irreversible change.

Photography by Jan Sochor
Sound recorded by Richard Ranft – “Sounds Of The Rainforest” (2009) – British Library