Pair of bark armlets (apomí)

Pair of bark armlets (apomí)

WaiWai people

Upper Essequibo River, Brazil, 20th century

A.1953.69.j.[1] and [2]

What are they and what are they used for? These are bark armlets or apomí. Men wear them on each arm over the top of a string of white beads. The bead strings were worn all the time but the decorated apomí were put on for special occasions when they would support huge fans of Scarlet macaw tail feathers called aporaká. The WaiWai man in the picture is dressed up for a festival and is wearing bark armlets with an aporaká on his left arm.

Image - Collection of Sir Gordon Lethem

 What are they made of? These apomí are made of long strips of tree, bark, rolled into cylinders and covered with young palm leaves. The design on the outer surfaces has been painted with latex from the osohkó tree mixed with ashes from palm leaves. The lower edges of the bark cylinders have been decorated with macaw (Ara sp.) and tinamou (Tinamus major) feathers.

What does the pattern mean? To the WaiWai people a meandering or ‘s’-shape is the sloth pattern, with each individual meander representing a sloth’s paw.

Linked objects:

Men’s vanity basket (pakára)

Ceremonial dance club (shawaraha)

Macaw Feather headdress

Southern two-toed sloth