Tatuyo Native Community, Brazil – In the middle of the Amazon jungle, along the banks of the Rio Negro, a young woman was bored. The coronavirus pandemic has cut off the flow of visitors, further isolating this original village that can only be reached by boat. So Cunhaporanga Tatuyo, 22, was spending her days, phone in hand, trying to figure out ways tik tok.
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She danced to songs, dubbed videos, and heavily disfigured her appearance – the complete TikTok experience. None of them found much audience.
Then she held a thick, winding beetle larva in front of the camera.
“People ask, Cunhaporanga, is it true that you really eat grub?”
“Of course we eat them! Do you want to see?”
The glitch is over (“mmmm,” Konpuranga said), and a new viral star is born — streaming from the most remote locations. Cunhaporanga House is a group of thatched-roof huts along the river’s edge, surrounded only by the Amazon jungle. Dozens of residents who live here are members of the Tatuyo people. They paint their faces bright red, wear headdresses adorned with feathers, and live alongside boisterous parrots which Cunhaporanga warns not to confuse with pets, surviving on what they can grow or hunt.
It is all now a live wallpaper of what has become one of the most dynamic and fastest growing social media in Brazil. In just over 18 months, Cunhaporanga has amassed even more 6 million followers of TikTok, simply by viewing scenes from her daily life. For her, the activities that she published were unremarkable. But for her growing audience, They have brought into a surprising intimacy a world that could not seem further.
Cunhaporanga offers a bowl of caterpillars for her family to eat: 6.7 million views. Cunhaporanga waving a tool used to make cassava flour: 16.1 million views. Cunhaporanga dance on pristine river banks – it’s still TikTok, after all – to viral pop song: 4.1 million views.
With the arrival of social media in the Amazon rainforest, one of the final frontiers of digital media, it is opening an unprecedented window into the lives of indigenous people, removing the barriers once imposed by geography. For the first time, some of the planet’s most isolated people are communicating daily with the outside world without the traditional filters of journalists, academics or advocates.
“This is an important opportunity,” said Beto Marubu, a member of the Marubu people, who belongs to his village I just got online It is already spreading. “Brazilians do not know the indigenous people, and from this lack of information all kinds of terrible stereotypes have arisen as the indigenous people are lazy, lazy or unhappy.”
The digitization of indigenous lives is now at odds with some of the most powerful political currents in Brazil. President Jair Bolsonaro rose to power lamenting the size of the indigenous lands and calling for it to be open to commercial interests. He described its residents as incomprehensible foreigners. “Indians don’t speak our language, they don’t have money, they don’t have culture,” Bolsonaro He said in 2015 Because he publicly plotted to run for president. “They are indigenous peoples. How did they reach 13 percent of the national territory?”
On one piece of Indigenous land last month, Cunhaporanga — who speaks impeccable Portuguese and considers herself entirely Brazilian — was walking in the sun, and TikTok was on her mind. She wanted to continue to show her people’s culture but didn’t know how long she would be able to. I looked at the village’s satellite antenna, which was installed in late 2018, and sighed. The monthly internet bill for the community was $65.
“It’s really expensive,” she said, still not sure how to earn so much on a platform that is often difficult to monetize. Some followers donate a few bucks here and there, but not much. Now her father, the village chief, was saying that the community might soon have to take it off the internet. This will cut off her access to social media – and could end her career at TikTok.
Cunhaporanga tried to push that idea away. Instead I wondered what her next story would do on TikTok He is.
Preserving a threatened culture through social media
By now, you know caterpillars are go viral. Almost every video of the tiny, curvy creatures, which are harvested from an Amazonian palm tree and allegedly taste like coconut, fetch millions of views. But when she posted the first video, for her it was just daily food – as basic as flour or fish.
She was stunned by the response: Within hours of the video being posted, it had been viewed by over a million people.
She started yelling at her family, asking them to come see. She carried her iPhone 7, which was bought with money saved from selling arts and crafts to tourists. I used it to open an account on Instagram, which has painstakingly grown close to 1000 people. But this reaction was new and confusing.
“Karamba!” She said. “How can so many people care about something I eat every day?”
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Her parents and brother looked at the phone, trying to make sense of it all. The comments provided a little guidance:
Someone said about the caterpillar “simple eating”.
“What does it taste like?” asked another.
Another person said “pure protein”.
Cunhaporanga’s father was hesitant. Pino Tatoyo was one of the first ardent advocates of bringing the internet to the village. He felt that the digital age had arrived and there was no turning back. His people had to embrace technology to connect with the world – and teach him who they were. He himself made a YouTube video in full hood – “A little presentation about who I am!” He called – and created an account on Instagram, which eventually attracted 12,000 followers. But Cunhaporanga’s TikTok story was different. This was not a few thousand people. That was millions.
He told her, “Be careful.” “There are a lot of things that can go wrong and cause us problems.”
But they agreed that this was a powerful tool for protecting and documenting a culture that they felt was increasingly under threat. Promising that she would be eager to respect her culture and her family, Cunhaporanga returned to her phone and went to work – answering questions that began pouring in from all over Brazil. Why Tatuyo paint their faces: “To banish negative energy.” On her açai breakfast: “You have no idea how good this is.” About whether they use shoes: “When going into the forest.”
Cunhaporanga’s videos have taken advantage of TikTok’s identification weirdness. Some of its biggest stars aren’t famous – at least not in the traditional sense – but ordinary people are introducing audiences to their extraordinary lives. Austin beekeepers have attracted 9.6 million followers. The mother of six has 1.7 million. An Antarctic scientist got 940,000 in less than five months.
In the Amazon, Cunhaporanga showed people a combined meal of ants and cassava. Then the language of its people. Then the chibi, a mixture of water and cassava flour.
Her followers did not reach millions, until she began to harmonize the feud. In one of the videos, she partnered with the bright green parrot who lives in the village, and dub a voice alongside the careless animal. Elsewhere, she is 11 years old My brother, in his feather headdress, begins to twist. And in another, a Roddy Ricch rap is played while her family builds an earthen fire pit. “I’m not a player, I got a lot of music,” the American rapper said, while Cunhaporanga’s mother stomped in the mud.
That was silly. It was hilarious. It was tik tok.
She wanted to check more.
Six million followers and struggling to pay the bills
Cunhaporanga’s phone was lit up with messages and notifications. It was a video she posted showing how she was removing her face paint with soap and water. Over two million people watched it, and soon millions more watched it. But inside her family’s cottage, she had already started her next story on TikTok.
She asked her father and younger siblings to bring the caricus, a traditional musical instrument. Her brother Biko, who drives his own 960,000-strong Tik Tok, quickly complied, and was generally pleased with the attention. Her father also recovered the flute. But he remained unsure on social media. He was happy to teach people his culture. But what tangible benefits has TikTok brought to the village?
Six million followers, and they were still barely struggling, worried about paying their electricity and internet bills. They were digitally famous, but poorer than ever. If the virus continues to keep tourists away, he fears he will have to cancel the internet and frustrate his daughter.
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“The situation is horrific,” he said. “Really difficult, very difficult.”
But he left these thoughts away now, and went down beside his son to the public meeting room, putting on his headdress and playing the flute. Cunhaporanga stood in front of them, filming.
“Hi, everyone,” she said. “Today I brought my parents and brothers to play this instrument which is part of our celebrations when we receive visitors.”
The song captured by Cunhaporanga was touching and melodic. She showed the video to her siblings and father. They smiled and said it looked great. She didn’t think it was her best job – and she was worried about the possibility of it spreading widely – but she wasn’t too nervous.
She said, “That’s enough for TikTok.”