Man's hair tube

Man’s hair tube (müisó)

Waiwai people,

Guyana, 20th century


What is it? This is a hair tube or müisó.

What is it for? Amerindian people used to spend a lot of time washing, oiling and combing their hair. WaiWai men grew their hair very long, which must have got in the way when they went hunting in the forest, so they wore their hair in a long pigtail. For dances and special ceremonies they would add a special hair tube like this one.

Who made it? The hair tube was made by the WaiWai people, who live in Guyana and Brazil.

How is it worn? The man wearing it would have threaded his pigtail through the short beaded bamboo tube at the top. The bulky feather tassel below acted like a hair extension.

Image: Collection of Sir Gordon Lethem 

What is it made of? The beaded tube is made of bamboo. Under the tube is a fringe of parrot feathers, the skins of eight channel-billed toucans (Ramphastos vitellinus) and the iridescent skin of a little Guianian toucanet (Selenidera culik).

 Are hair tubes still worn today? This tube was made and worn about 60 years ago, at a time when the WaiWai had very little contact with western culture. In the 1950s an airstrip was built near their land and they began to have direct contact with missionaries and other westerners. These days the WaiWai wear Western clothes and have replaced their traditional festivals with Christian celebrations such as Christmas and Easter.

Linked objects:

Channel-billed toucan

Green aracari

Jaguar-skin belt

Bark armlets

Men’s vanity basket (pakára)

Women’s bead aprons (keweyú)