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Borrowed Feathers

16 Jun — 8 Mar 20

Mask of Tapirapé from Brazil (Mato Grosso) called "Cara Grande", on loan from Thomas Rosenbauer, Photo: Museum Wiesbaden / Bernd Fickert

Feathers containing keratin serve the bird in various ways. They protect against extreme temperatures and pouring rain, aid communication and enable flight. Numerous variations in shape and color have developed and enabled the successful spread of the Aves Class, which boasts more than ten thousand species.

When a bird loses a feather, it is not long before it finds itself decorating someone’s hair or hat. Just when it was that humans began to adorn themselves with feathers, we do not know; feathers are too transient for that. Human’s use of feathers, on the other hand, is something with which we have been familiar for centuries in many cultures. Feathers have been used to make blankets for warmth or as writing utensils. Cultural significance, changing fashions and the varying availability of feathers produced a rich and colorful variety of jewelry and clothing.

Certain feathers are universally loved. The wing and tail-feathers of predatory birds, for example, often serve as symbols of the distinctive qualities of the wearer. The exhibition in Wiesbaden presents, in particular, feather ornamentations from indigenous American cultures. For example, the Kayapo, Wajana and Karaja of Brazil use certain feathers to demonstrate their social status and age group.

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