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A Rikbaktsa Amazon indigenous feather and hair headdress

Brazil, Mato Grosso, Rio Juruena & Rio Sangue, collected in the 1950s-1960s

H. 65 cm (incl. stand)

The headband is made of cotton fabric, densely covered with small tufts of feathers that were incorporated during weaving, with 21 long threads with continuing tufts and feather bundles at the ends. On the band, the tufts of feathers are placed in a banded arrangement, with black Hokko bird or Great curassow (Crax rubra) feathers alternated with feathers of the Scarlet macaw (Ara macao) and the Ariel toucan (Ramphastos ariel). Placed below the 21 threads are 29 long Scarlet macaw and Yellow-breasted blue macaw (Ara ararauna) tail feathers, each with a bunch of colourful feathers tied to the tips. Locks of black human hair are suspended from the band's sides at the wearer's ears.

Collection of an anthropologist, Ireland (collected in the 1950s-1960s)

- Gisela Völger & Ursula Dyckerhoff et al., Federarbeiten der Indianer Südamerikas aus der Studiensammlung

Horst Antes, Oktagon Verlag, Stuttgart, 1995, no. 223

- Real Jardín Botánico, Arte Plumario de Brasil, Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana, Comisión Quinto Centenario, 1988, p. 10, fig. 215

The Rikbaktsa people live in the continuous Indigenous Lands Erikbaktsa (1968), Japuíra (1986) and Do Escondido (1998), in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, Mato Grosso, and around Rio Juruena & Rio Sangue. This group’s self-denomination – Rikbaktsa – means ‘the human beings’. Rik means person, human being; bak reinforces the meaning, and tsa is the suffix for the plural form. In the region they are called Canoeiros (Canoe People), in reference to their ability in the use of canoes, or, less commonly, Orelhas de Pau (Wooden Ears), due to the use of large plugs made of wood to decorate their stretched earlobes.

Since the 17th century Rikbaktsa lands have been visited by Europeans, and both have always been hostile towards each other. By repute, the Rikbaktsa always were at war with the neighbouring tribes, being known as fierce warriors. Ages of European oppression and exploitation diminished the population numbers, but in the 1970s there was a change in the approach of the missionaries towards the Indigenous, recognizing their right to their own culture. Since the end of the 1970s the Rikbaktsa have struggled to regain control over part of their traditional lands. In 1985 they managed to recover the area known as Japuíra and continued their effort to get back the Escondido region, which was finally demarcated in 1998. However, it is still occupied by miners, timber companies and colonization companies.

Part of the revenue will be donated to the Rikbaktsa for conservation and protection of their rightful lands.

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Two splendid small Kayapo Amazon Indigenous feather male àkkàkry-re headdresses


Brazil, Pará, collected in the 1950s-1960s

These small headdresses, which male dancers would wear during ritual and ceremony, have feathers used in variants determined by a specific ritual privilege. They both primarily consist of cotton string and green Amazon Parrot (Psittacidae

spp.) feathers. One has a row of Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) feathers to the sides of three centrally placed long Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) wing feathers at the top. The other has a row of cropped Yellow-breasted Blue Macaw (Ara ararauna)
with centrally two yellow and macaw feathers.

H. 94 cm & H. 101 cm (incl. cotton strings)

Collection of an anthropologist, Ireland (collected in the 1950s-1960s)

- Gisela Völger & Ursula Dyckerhoff et al., Federarbeiten der Indianer Südamerikas aus der Studiensammlung Horst Antes, Oktagon Verlag, Stuttgart, 1995, p. 228-229

- Gustaaf Verswijver, Kaiapo Amazonia: the art of body decoration, Snoeck- Decaju & Zoon, Ghent, 1992, p. 169


The Kayapo are linguistically and culturally counted among the Ge peoples, who once settled large parts of central and eastern Brazil but are traditionally semi-nomads. Now they no longer build their villages in remote clearings near small rivers, but on the large navigable rivers near government stations with schools, medical care, shops, and an airport. However, the men still occasionally venture on larger hunting trips. The Kayapo are passionate makers and users of feather headdresses. They keep thirty-five species of birds as pets, which they collect with blunt arrows without injuring them. Because the birds as a result of loss of habitat have become scarcer, the Kayapo now replace the valuable feathers in headdresses that are intended for sale (the Brazilian government has allowed them to do this since the early 1970s), with feathers that are more common and less important to them.


Wearing feather headdresses is associated with privileges that were bestowed upon a man throughout his life. The composition, simple or detailed, as well as the form of the feather headdress, are determined exclusively by individually granted privileges. This way, leaders, elders, chiefs, and shamans are distinguished from other members of society.

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A Kayapó Amazon Indigenous feather men’s headdress

Brazil, Mato Grosso, Tapirapé, collected in the 1950s-1960s

H. 70 cm

The base of the headdress is an open-topped hourglass-shaped cap made of woven raffia. The lower ring is covered with white feather down, above which a band of Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) down feathers is knotted on a string that covers the quills of a black-green iridescent row of a Penelope bird or Spix’s guan (Penelope jacquacu) feathers trimmed at the upper edge, above which one row of cropped white Jabiru stork (Jabiru mycteria) feathers towers. Finally, the ensemble is finished with a wreath of vibrant red and blue tail feathers from the Scarlet macaw and Yellow-breasted blue macaw (Ara ararauna).

- Gisela Völger & Ursula Dyckerhoff et al., Federarbeiten der Indianer Südamerikas aus der Studiensammlung Horst Antes, Oktagon Verlag, Stuttgart, 1995, no. 199 (comparable)

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First half 20th century

The Juruna tribe lives along with the middle and upper ranges of the Xingu river.

Red, green and blue feathers from the Scarlet Macaw, Hyacinthine Macaw and Blue-fronted Parrot, cotton string.


H. 94 cm x W. 62 cm

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First half 20th century

The Kayapó tribe lives along the lower ranges of the Xingu River in the state of Mato Grosso, Central Brasil.

Red, yellow and black feathers from the Scarlet Macaw, the Crested Oropendola and the Toucan. Cotton string.

H. 76  x W. 57 cm



First half 20th century

Worn on the back suspended from the forehead by a tump-line, these are made of small white egret feathers attached to the radial plumes of red and blue tail feathers of different macaw species. The feathers radiate from a channelled and bowed split- cane frame. This headdress is amongst the largest in the Amazon lowlands and forms a nimbus for the whole upper body of the dancer who carries it.

The Kayapó-Xikrin tribe lives at the lower ranges of the Cateté River in the state of Pará.


H. 101 cm x W. 68 cm



First half 20th century

Now worn during harvest festivals, these semi-circular wooden masks representing a spirit, are made of blue, yellow and scarlet macaw feathers affixed to a wood panel with beeswax. They have a split border into which a fringe, the spirit’s headdress, is inserted. The fringing feather diadem “unzips” for separate storage. The central cross of blue and yellow is derived from the colours of the Brazilian flag. The rectangular eyes are made of freshwater mother of pearl, the teeth of bone and the roundels of feathers and mother of pearl on the cheeks are actually meant to represent the figure’s earplugs, moved inward on the face by artistic convention. The Tapirapé is a lowland tribe in the state of Pará.

H. 61  x W. 54 cm

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