Men’s vanity basket (pakára)

Men’s vanity basket (pakára)

WaiWai people,

Guyana, 20th century


 What is this? This type of basket, known as a pakára was made by a WaiWai man to carry his body paints, toiletries, small bundles of feathers and sacred stones.

What is it made of? Pakára baskets are made from a wild forest plant called mukru (Ischnosiphon sp.). Untreated mukru is dark brown in colour, but when the outer layer is scraped off it turns yellow. A third colour is obtained by staining the mukru strips black with resin from a tree.

Who made it and where did they live? A WaiWai man made and used this pakára basket. The WaiWai people live along the upper reaches of the Amazon.

How was it made? To make this pakára a WaiWai man wove long flexible strips which he took from the outside of the mukru stems. He then made the geometric patterns by plaiting together mukru strips of these three colours. This pakára has a different design on the top, the sides of the lid, and the inside.

 Do the patterns mean anything? The patterns are thought to represent forest animals of spiritual importance to the WaiWai such as scorpions, pythons, frogs or monkeys. The design on the lid of this basket is a row of scorpions known as chikiri, placed with their tails alternating up and down. It is also ornamented with scarlet macaw feather tassels. Both the feathers and the designs helped to protect the basket’s owner from dangerous spirits when he was hunting in the forest.

Linked objects: 

Neotropical scorpion

Bark armlets (apomí)

Women’s bead aprons (keweyú)

Man's hair tube