Make a Kayapo Headress

Kayapo Belo MonteI am right miffed 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 Xingu tribes is what inspired James Cameron to create the most brilliant environmental film ever; Avatar. You can see my review of this film here: avatar movie review.

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 23 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.

Make a Kayapo headressAnd 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 energy.

It is actually very easy to make one of these, 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.

Make a Kayapo Head dressAbove 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.

Make a Kayapo Head dressOK, so goose feathers from China and and old leather belt with carpet tape might not be very indigenous but this achieved something that looks very 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.

The question is, do I dare to turn up to a Parish meeting in Michaelstow, where I am the Parish Clerk wearing my head dress and make up? What effect might wearing such a thing in public ( where I am extremely rarely found ) have on publicising the plight of Chief Raoni and the Kayapo people who have sworn to oppose the dam at Belo Monte ‘to the death’? Will anyone else join me in this ‘Kayapo hat protest’?

simonthescribe writes and publishes articles, books and websites themed around living a sustainable life in tune with nature.

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