7i. Art Resistance 2
2. Make a Kayapo Headdress
I am so unhappy at the way that the exigencies of ‘economy’ continue to treat the indigenous peoples of this planet. The Masai in Africa, a spectacularly beautiful people who are being driven off their ancestral lands to benefit game hunters. The Lakota Indians of North America who are having their sacred heartlands sold off to the highest bidder, most likely for commercial development. But most of all, the Kayapo and other tribes of the Xingu River in the Amazon Basin who are being driven from a sustainable life of freedom, in tune with nature, to one which is a million miles away in terms of anything they might want or desire. A life out of touch with nature.
Again and again, relentlessly, the force of greed, of money, drives civilised, gentle, earth-loving and sustainable societies to destruction. Aborigines to alcoholics, smallpox infested blankets for the ‘redskins’, even some of the ‘Cornish’, where I live in Cornwall talk about 1000 years of English genocide. I hate this about our supposed ‘civilisation’, that it still so clearly destroys innocence and beauty and ‘other ways’ of living on this earth, so often without even noticing them. It makes me ashamed to be part of the system that espouses this.
I am not alone here and the case of the Amazon Xingu tribes is what inspired James Cameron to create the most brilliant environmental film ever; Avatar. Years ago in 1989, I bought a book called ‘Jungle Stories: The Fight for the Amazon’, written by Sting and Jean-Pierre Dutilleux about their visit to the Kayapo tribe where they stayed with Chief Raoni. I still have it and in the intervening 30+ years or so years since describing the problems so clearly, the situation of the indigenous tribes has got far worse, with clear mass-murder, poisoning, environmental destruction, illegal mining and logging and land clearance for livestock and dam building now being commonplace.
It makes me mad. I mean really angry and twisted inside and I think this is because I feel so powerless to do anything to help them beyond the life choices I already make. With Jair Bolsonaro as the president of Brazil the situation for the indigenous people’s of the rainforest gets even more desperate.
So it came to me that I should make a Kayapo head dress and wear it to show my sympathy with these tribes, and to, in some small way, promote more awareness of what seems to be a virtual news embargo on the genocide being caused by the economic interests of consumerism and its greed for exploiting other people’s land for materials and energy. My heart goes out to these people.
It is very easy to make one of these head-dresses, all you need are some good size feathers of whatever type takes your fancy. In this example I have used dyed goose feathers. For the headband I used an old leather belt that I cut, along the belt, into strips. I made holes most of the way along about three quarters of the way up, with an auger, and pushed feathers through the holes from the ‘outside’ to the ‘inside’, which gives them an outward pointing ‘crown’ effect. On the inside I had previously put some heavy-duty, double-sided sticky tape. Once all the feathers were through I stripped of the top layer of the tape and bedded the feathers onto it, making sure that they were all front-faced, which gives a nice convex curve to the crown of feathers.
Above the holes where the feathers stick through, the belt bends inwards, helping thrust the feathers slightly outwards rather than straight up. I stuck the other bit of belt on top of the feather stems on the inside of the hat and sealed the bottom join with red insulation tape to match colours.
Figure 6: Diagram for headdress assembly
So some purchased goose feathers and old leather belt with carpet tape might not be very indigenous but this achieved something that looks pretty much like a Kayapo head dress to me. A bit of make up and I feel somewhere between a person sympathising with the Kayapo and a member of the Village People. I know some people will want to say ‘This is just cultural appropriation’, but I believe not. This is coming from a genuine place.
Figure 7: Kayapo style head dress made with goose feathers
Jothee says: “Hi, this is a powerful piece on the people of the world holding on to a way of living only the affluent and super rich can have, whereas the common man of any of the continents is struggling to find bread. I have met a few maasais as I come from Kenya who are in Europe and the Americas working and living under cruel conditions working menial jobs just so that they can send something back to their homes for those they left behind after they were forcefully removed from their heritage land.
Concerning the head-dress — WEAR IT every eye brow raised will lead to another. Is also possible to republish this article on my blog the website above. Keep on spreading in love and debate!!”
June says: “I have goose feathers… gonna dye them. thanks for this… a family reunion is coming up. I spent 4 months in Brazil spent one week with a Xanvante tribesman. Love the people. Currently reading Martin Prechtel’s Stealing Beneficios Roses. Also read Secrets of the Talking Jaguar and Long Life, Honey in the Heart. Martin writes so very eloquently about the indigenous. Thanks for your input.”
Stephenie writes: “I am so happy to see this. I am sure my students will be interested in this and I can connect their learning about indigenous people, in Hawaii, our home, and worldwide, to the reading, math and writing standards we are using. Mahalo!”
Eva says: “I will join you by making a Kayapo headdress and I will wear it. And I will teach others to do the same.”
Kirsteen says: “Wear it, yes indeed. k x x”
Nova says: “I happened across your article while looking for pictures or kayapo headdress styles. I am Taino from Boriken, we also wear kayapo style headdresses, small crowns like yours and really long ones consisting of hundreds of feathers.
I like that you made yours the way you did. I did something similar with macaw feathers, leather and glue, when first rediscovering my tribes headdresses many years ago. Eventually I learned to make them traditionally using only feathers and string, and have been making them since. Very cool story, thanks for sharing.”
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