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Rain Forest String Figures from Guyana

This first picture is of a February 1996 canoe trip along the upper Essequibo River in extreme southern Guyana. Our party consisted of Wai Wai and Wapishana guides and boatmen and some folks from the U.S. The area is in the center of one of the largest areas of undisturbed rain forest remaining anywhere.


This is an anaconda that we came across on the Kassikaityu River. At the time it looked about 50 feet long, but 15 to 20 feet with a 8 to 12 inch diameter would probably be closer. We saw it on three different occasions. Each time it posed for us for about ten minutes and then slithered back into the water. My greatest fear was getting pushed into the water by my canoe mates as they jockeyed for a better camera angle.

Campsite on the Essequibo River

This was a great campsite until one night during a rainstorm when about 15 gallons of water collected in a sag in the the tarp. Some ropes gave way at 5 a.m. and dumped all the water on my hammock and me. Fortunately, the water was warm.

String Figures

String figures are structures created from a loop of string with the hands, usually by one person, but sometimes by two, as in the well known string game "Cats Cradle". They are probably the most widespread of all games, being found in nearly all cultures.

In order to make string figures you first need string. Here is my Wai Wai friend Mewsha making string.

Members of our party demonstating string figures

The Wai Wai string figure "Two Diamonds".

The Wapishana string figure "Curassow's Breast"

Two great sites for learning about string figures are International String Figure Association and World Wide Webs.