A TV series about an Amazonian tribe has been slammed as ‘staged, false, fabricated and distorted’ by experts on the tribe.
‘Mark & Olly: Living with the Machigenga’ was shown on the Travel Channel in the US, and on the BBC last year. In the show Mark Anstice and Olly Steeds lived in a Matsigenka Indian village for several months to show the ‘reality’ of life among the tribe.
But now two experts on the tribe have gone public with a string of highly damaging accusations. Dr. Glenn Shepard is an anthropologist who has worked with the Matsigenka Indians for 25 years and speaks their language fluently. Ron Snell, the son of US missionaries, grew up with the tribe and and is also fluent in the Matsigenkas’ tongue.
Just some of Shepard’s accusations, published in the highly-respected journal Anthropology News, are:
• In order to present a ‘false and insulting’ portrayal of the tribe as sex-obsessed, mean and savage, many of the translations of what the Indians are saying are fabricated.
• Many events presented as real in the show must have been ‘staged’.
• A key scene in the show in which Olly is subjected to painful ant stings, since “according to Matsigenka tradition he must be cleansed” and “endure the ancient punishments” for buying deer meat is denounced by Shepard as ‘fabricated and [with] no basis in ethnography.’