The tale of the ponytail tie

Object of the Month: 04/2008

What is it?:

Ponytail tie


Origin:

Peru


Age: Around 1967
Made by:

Aguaruna or Awajún people


What is it made of?:

Bird wing bones, 26 bird skins (toucan, parrot, tanager, honey creeper), cotton, seeds


Accession #: A2007:4:142

Ponytail tie
Ponytail tie
Courtesy SMM

Dennis Olson, an international development worker from Minnesota, worked in the Peruvian Amazon for 15 years. During that time, he collected hundreds of objects from the local Aguaruna (AH-gwa-ROO-nah) people, including this ponytail tie. We asked him to tell us a little bit about it.

"Men wear ponytail ties for big occasions such as weddings, family gatherings, after a successful war or fight with enemies, and when going on an important trip. Today, community leaders wear ponytail ties at assemblies or other important events such as visits from regional government officials, or when a delegation from the capital, Lima, visits.

"The Aguaruna do not kill birds for their skins and wing bones, but rather for their meat. But displaying [skins and bones] in an ornament like this is an indication of a man's hunting skills and his ability to provide meat for his family."