“Out of the Amazon: Life on the River”


Past Event

Location Info:

Houston Museum of Natural Science
5555 Hermann Park Dr.
Houston, TX  77030
“In some tribes, the transition from childhood to adulthood is marked in a very different way [than in our society],” says Dirk Van Tuerenhout, Ph.D., curator of anthropology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. “It’s more like a test of endurance.” He’s talking about an African tribal tradition of sedating wasps, bees and bullet ants, poking their little bodies into woven mats, then affixing the mats to the arms, bellies and necks of teenagers. “Then they [the stinging insects] wake up; they are extremely mad. If you cringe, squirm, cry or run away, you’re not ready to become an adult; try again next year.”

Mats, with dead wasps, bees and ants in place, are among the dozens of objects seen in the museum’s exhibit “Out of the Amazon: Life on the River.” Ceremonial objects, masks, costumes and headdresses from 13 Amazonian tribes are included in the display, as are photographs, videos and regional taxidermy.

The exhibit opens with a reconstructed hut from the Shuar peoples. “They are extremely cautious, paranoid, because they used to — some people say they still do — [make] shrunken heads. In order to avoid being tagged as the next volunteer to give up your head, they live in single-family dwellings on the top of the hill so they can see people coming. They have not one but two sets of walls, an inner and an outer wall. The sleeping quarters are inside the inner walls, just in case somebody sneaks up in the night and shoots arrows. They also have a trap door in the middle of the hut which opens up into a tunnel which allows people to escape,” says Van Tuerenhout.

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Daily. Through October 16, 2016. 5555 Hermann Park. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit hmns.org. $20.


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