Ceremonial dance club (shawaraha)

Ceremonial dance club (shawaraha)

WaiWai people,

Upper Essequibo River, Brazil, 20th century


 What is it and what was it used for? This is a club known as a shawaraha used in festival dances and celebrations.

Who made it? It was made by the WaiWai people who live in Guyana.

What is it made of? The club is made of rainforest wood. The basketry handle is made of woven plant fibre. The designs are painted on with achiote, a natural red plant dye from the fruit of the Bixa orellana tree. It is decorated with tassels of Scarlet macaw Ara macao feathers.

Image - Collection of Sir Gordon Lethem A.1963.27.az.19

Is there only one design? The patterns on WaiWai dance clubs varies but the same designs were also used on baskets, body paint, canoe paddles and wooden stools. Amerindian people have patterned their bodies, their objects and even their landscapes for centuries. The picture shows rock paintings on the cliffs above the Karowrieng River in Guyana with geometric patterns representing forest plants and animals still in use by today.

What do the patterns mean? The criss-crossing design painted on the dance club is thought to symbolise the stalk of a palm frond.

Linked objects:

Pair of bark armlets (apomí)

Men’s vanity basket (pakára)

Scarlet macaw

Macaw Feather headdress

Women’s bead aprons (keweyú)