Birds’ feathers in human society, exhibition


This video from the Museum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden, the Netherlands, is about putting together their exhibition A World of Feathers.

The museum says about it:

The exhibition A World of Feathers will be on display from 14 October.

People wear feathers to make an impression. They have done so all over the world for centuries. Feathers are dazzling, they are distinctive and yet they also connect; they are seductive, exclusive and stylish. The greatest couturiers use them, they are worn by royalty all round the world and they have given many indigenous peoples – from Papua New Guinea to North America – iconic status. The museum’s most beautiful feather objects are now on display to the public for the first time. Fashion lovers will delight at the feathered creations of leading couturiers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler.

This 8 December 2016 video is about the exhibition.

This 29 September 2016 video from the exhibition is about the role of feathers in the fashion designing by Pierre Antoine Vettorello.

I went to the exhibition on 18 December 2016.

Part of it is the history of birds’ feathers in human society. Traditionally, indigenous people in many countries have used feathers for many purposes. Inuit people of Greenland used eider duck feathers for blankets for babies to sleep under. On some Pacific islands, feathers used to be money. North American indigenous people traditionally use, eg, eagles’ feathers in ceremonial headdresses (contrary to the belief of many people, only North American western plains native people wear them, and only individuals with special roles within their communities have the right to wear them).

In the late nineteenth century, birds’ feathers became a major capitalist industry, especially in Europe, North America and South Africa. About 100 years ago, 25,000 people worked in the feathers industry in France. They made, eg, ballet dancers’ clothes. Or big feathered ladies’ hats, a fashion craze then. This led to many birds being killed. Terns, egrets, South African storks, New Guinean birds of paradise threatened to become extinct. As a reaction to that mass slaughter of birds, societies like the RSPB in Britain arose, to stop threats to birds’ lives.

Where do the feathers in the exhibition come from? Many from hunting during the early twentieth century or earlier. The Maori of New Zealand used to hunt kiwis for ceremonial feathers. Kiwis are a protected species now; Maori use only feathers of kiwis which have become roadkill.

In South America, native Americans have a complex way of getting parrot feathers without killing the parrots. The parrots fly around freely and are attracted to villages because there is food. People then take some tail feathers. On the spots where the feathers came from, they then douse a fluid which is a mixture of dart frog poison and plant juice. The parrots then fly away. And new feathers will grow where the old ones used to be; however, feathers of a different colour. Weeks later, the parrots will be back in the village. People will take the new, differently coloured feathers. And the cycle will start anew.

In the museum shop, peacock feathers were for sale. White peacock feathers were more expensive than normal peacock feathers, as white peacocks are rarer.

1 thought on “Birds’ feathers in human society, exhibition

  1. Pingback: Blue-throated macaws in Bolivia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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