It is a well-documented fact in the world of science that the origin of all human life is found in Africa. It is said that about 200,000 to 300,000 years ago, the first Homo sapiens emerged on the continent and from then, many of them migrated all over the world.
It’s a history that binds every single member of the human race, regardless of the huge variation in skin color that currently exists in our species. Of course, over hundreds of thousands of years, the various civilizations that stemmed from this migration were bound to change drastically and modernize beyond recognition.
But while this is the case for most modern humans, this certainly doesn’t apply to the ancient tribes in Andaman islands, a territory in the Bay of Bengal.
Learn more about the original Homo sapiens:
The Jarawas are one of these ancient tribes and it is believed that they are direct descendants of the first humans to have emerged from Africa and have lived in this region ever since.
For a staggering 55,000 years, the tribe had not in any been interfered with by modern civilization and was almost completely isolated.
With a population of about 250 to 400, the Jarawa tribe is one of the largest tribes in Andaman islands. They had a reputation for rejecting all forms of interaction with outsiders and, in fact, their name, ‘Jarawa’ means ‘The hostile ones’ or ‘People of the Earth’.
Listen to what the Jarawas have to say for themselves about their way of life:
In fact, in the days following the unprecedented disaster that was the 2004 tsunami, the fate of the Jawaras remained a total mystery. Considering they lived on a remote island in the same region where the tsunami was in full force, it seemed almost impossible that they could have survived.
However, when a helicopter flew over the island with the intention of searching for potential casualties, a male member of the tribe rushed out on to the beach and aimed his arrow at the pilot. This unnerving gesture clearly had one meaning: “Get off of our territory!”
Ultimately, tens of millions of people in South East Asia were affected by the awful disaster, but this tribe refused to receive any outside help.
The mere fact that their language is so incredibly distinctive and different from that of Andaman islanders just goes to show how little contact they’ve had with other people over thousands of years.
Of course, this is not to say that they live exactly as the original members of the tribe did 55,000 years ago. Often described as being part of the ‘Stone Age’, they do make their own tools and weapons out of metal which they salvage from shipwreck remains.
In terms of their diet, they depend entirely on the forest and sea for their food. As far as their meat consumption is concerned, these hunter-gatherers will eat anything from wild boar to monitor lizard. They also eat various fruits and honey.
Both males and females in the tribe go about their day-to-day lives entirely naked. Sometimes they wear ornaments made from shells and palm leaves but this not for the intention of protecting their ‘modesty’.
Similarly to almost every isolated tribal group with a reputation for being aloof and reluctant to embrace change, the Jarawas are often inaccurately described as ‘backward’ or ‘savage’.
There is no denying that they are hostile to outsiders but, unfortunately, the world has become so globalized and that it has made contact with these very outsiders inevitable.
Over the last few decades, there have been numerous encounters with outsiders, and so the outside world is no longer a mystery to members of the tribe who are alive today.
This increased contact has had many adverse effects. The lifestyle of the Jarawas had been developing since the beginning of humankind but the trajectory of this development has been interrupted irrevocably.
The Jarawa people now wear clothes, use scissors and also use mirrors when applying their makeup. For thousands of years, they would make their own lights in the dark with the help of candles made from beeswax, nowadays they have their own flashlights.
But most of these modern devices were given to them by poachers who invade their protected land and hunt wild boar. Naturally, this has had an adverse effect on the Jarawas and in fact, it has even caused a food scarcity
In the 1990s, their hunter-gatherer lifestyle was severely infringed upon when the Andaman trunk road was built. The trunk road is a 360 km long road that connects Port Blair to the western areas of the Andaman islands.
While it has certainly helped the region in terms of business and tourism, it has done nothing, but threaten the survival of the ancient tribe. And that’s because this trunk road cuts through the jungles in which Jarawas live.
Documentary filmmakers Alexandre Dereims and Claire Beilvert regard this substantial cultural shift as a warning sign.
In fact, they made a film, We Are Humanity, in the tribe members send one very profound message: they have no interest in joining the modern world and will continue to make this clear to the outsiders who trespass their territory.
As a result of this, it is believed that their ancient tribe could become extinct in less than 10 years. That is if the Indian government continues to take no action in protecting these indigenous peoples.
The aforementioned filmmakers launched a campaign which aims to raise awareness of the fate that the Jarawa are facing. Included in the campaign is a petition, requesting that the authorities fight against the problem posed by the poachers and close down the road which crosses their land.
Hopefully, the government will indeed take the appropriate action needed to help protect these peoples.