Life of the World’s Loneliest Man

Also dubbed as the “Man of the Hole”

(Images by Survival International)

When we look back and comprehend how far we have come as a human race, it appears utterly remarkable. From hunting and huts to cars and cash, we have certainly conquered a long road. While we know this road is never-ending, let’s take a pause and think of our progenitor brothers. How did they live? How difficult was it? Are we capable of living how they lived?

Well, if you ask me, I don’t think we can pull off that kind of life. But there are some tribes still alive, who have lived all these years in isolation, and are still following the life of the past. And with us, taking our presence everywhere, their population seems to be depleting.

So is the story of a man who is the last member of his tribe. The name of this man, his tribe, and the language he speaks are all unknown. Residing in the Amazon Rainforest, he was part of a tribe with a total of six members, five of whom were killed by a group of farmers in a genocidal attack 25 years ago. Since then, this man (now in his 50s) has lived a lone life in the thickets of the Amazon, surviving on pigs, monkeys, birds, and plants.

(Image of the Man of the Hole by filmmaker Vincent Carell)

His isolated existence was discovered in 1996 after which he was dubbed as the world’s loneliest man. The Brazilian Government body, FUNAI has been monitoring him since, to prove his existence and to renew the restriction order of the land he roams. Until 1998, only a single blurred photo of him was available, which was shot by a filmmaker and briefly included in his documentary Corumbiar.

FUNAI recently released a video of him to create global awareness of the threats to the uncontacted people in Brazil, which quickly went viral.

(Video by FUNAI on YouTube)

He has made it very clear that he doesn’t wish to be contacted by the outside world. When in 2005, FUNAI agents tried to approach him for friendly contact, he fired an arrow at a member and punctured his lung. Witnessing what happened to his tribe in the past, it’s understandable that he takes the outside world as a dangerous place and would prefer being left alone.

In 2009, when the images of his home were revealed, he was nicknamed “the Man of the Hole.” Officials discovered his abandoned huts, and a pit was seen inside each of them. It was initially believed that he dug these 6.5 feet deep holes to trap animals and to hide, but later on some observers speculated that they might be of spiritual significance to his tribe.

Image of the abandoned straw house called “Maloca” (Credits: Survival International)
Image of the 6-feet-deep hole dug by the tribesman (Credits: Survival International)

His straw hut had tools like wooden spears, bamboo sticks, resin torches, and arrows. He had also built gardens throughout the forest where he grew bananas, corn, papaya, and manioc.

Video of the Brazilian government representatives in the tribesman’s abandoned hut (Survival International on YouTube)

As a response to the 2005 incident, the Brazilian government decided it would be best to respect the man’s desire for privacy and protect his territory so he can live peacefully. His then-territory of 8,029 hectares, declared off-limits to trespassing and development, was later expanded by 3,000 hectares. “It would give him more space and more game to hunt,” as quoted by Fiona Watson, the research and advocacy director of Survival International. Since then, gifts of tools and seeds have also been left in the locations that he passes.

Under the Brazilian constitution, indigenous people have a right to land. Some ranchers have their eyes set on these lands ever since their demand increased. For the purpose of the same, it was deemed necessary to protect the lone man’s Indigenous land rights. This is why the footage shot of him by FUNAI’s agents is so essential. As Watson says, “They have to keep proving that this man exists.”

With the Man of the Hole having his life perfectly carved out in the forest, it was decided that leaving him on his terms was for everyone’s good. And as Watson put it, “The man being a symbol of survival also brings a wake-up call for the world.”

It is disheartening to see yet another tribe going extinct, making us slowly lose human diversity.

It's only words and words are all I have. Reach me at radha19kp@gmail.com

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