In 2009, Winfield accompanied his friend Ian Mackenzie to Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. There, in a remote highland village, they worked with Galang Ayu, a Penan elder, on recording Penan myths and their associated imagery, Ian serving as interpreter. Winfield then worked for three years to translate the data into images for a book about Penan myths, which Ian will edit and publish. Here is a small selection of those images.
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Although the nomadic hunter-gatherer Penan were not militant--they were too busy trying to survive in the jungle--they were quite capable of marshaling a spirited defense when attacked by enemies. Penan shields, unlike those of neighboring headhunters such as the Iban or Kenyah, were never decorated with human hair. This detail is from the cover of Penan Myths: Tales from the Borneo Rainforest, by Galang Ayu and Ian Mackenzie.
Poison Dart Woman
The Penan say that a beautiful young woman was desired by all the men of the forest. "I cannot marry all of you," she said, so in order to avoid conflict, she transformed herself into a poison dart tree, so that all men could use her "milk," i.e., the poisonous sap of the tree, on their blowgun darts.
"You Said Seven, But There Were Eight!"
A one-eyed penakoh (cannibal forest spirit), attracted by the dead game under a hunter's tree, is outwitted by the brave and resourceful Penan, in a traditional story. For the Penan method of hunting, see the following image of a hunter.
Giant fig trees are favorite perches for Penan hunters: the figs, as they ripen, provide mast for wild boars and many species of birds, who are attracted to the site. The hunter then shoots the animals, leaving them on the ground until he has killed enough for his purposes, or he has run out of darts. The blowgun has an iron blade attached to its distal end, used to dispatch game--and as a back-up weapon in case enemies are encountered.
A Penan myth concerns a woman who metamorphosed into a python as a result of breaking a taboo--eating python fat. Equivalent myths are found over much of Southeast Asia. Equivalent food taboos apply to men; for example, men may not eat squirrels. The rationale behind these taboos is lost to history. The carrying basket in the illustration bears a design known as Worm Trails.
The boats and paddles of Kelabit warriors, as once witnessed by a Penan man, were painted, and carved spirit animals were affixed to the prow, for magical protection. Similar boats are still in operation in Borneo.
The demon in the moonlight
This story demonstrates the dangers to children of playing outside at night: children were controlled through fear, rather than corporal punishment. While the penakoh or ogre (which in this case has spines on its head resembling a durian fruit) may be imaginary, the dangers to children of making too much noise, or of playing outside at night, were very real: poisonous snakes, wild animals, and enemies were all active at night.
By imitating the cry of the peacock pheasant, a rainbow serpent used its voice to lure unwary hunters to their doom. It is accompanied by its spirit familiar. The association between serpents and rainbows is very widespread, in Australian, Siberian, North American and South American indigenous communities.
A giant bird that eats men is said to dwell at the mouth of the Baram River in Borneo, nesting in a giant tree overhanging the river where it enters the sea. Although it has destroyed many men, in one old story a brave Penan escapes the bird's nest by clinging to its breast feathers.
Landscape - Borneo
A helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) flies over a Borneo jungle, with Mount Kinabalu in the background. This landscape forms the end-papers for Penan Myths.
Entrance to the Underwater World
The Penan believed that rainbow serpents, which guarded the entrances to Underwater worlds, were amphisboenic--having heads at either end of their bodies. They thus bear a strong familial resemblance to other amphisboenic water monsters found in Asia, North America, and South America, which were also rainbow-bodied, dangerous, and associated with chthonic powers of the earth and water, in opposition to the uranian powers of the Above World.
Looking for Jengeto-Iban headhunters
Iban headhunters on the war trail sometimes wore elaborate headdresses with peacock pheasant feathers, as symbols of status and success in headhunting. Tattoos were another symbol of prowess in war. Their weapons were simple but deadly: blowguns and swords. Shields were also used, but not by all warriors, and not all the time.
Winfield learned calligraphy from his father, Armistead L. Coleman (1905-1981), a professional artist and accomplished calligrapher. His illuminated or historiated initial letters have been used in book publications, cartography, murals, and cards for special occasions (birthdays, Christmas, Valentines, etc.). He works in Gothic, Roman, Italianate, Art Nouveau and other styles of calligraphy, usually integrating them into related imagery..
These historiated Roman capital letters were developed for Penan Myths.
Bindweed or morning glory, Convulvus.
Knights in Battle
Gothic lettering with gold foil illuminated capital letter.
The Thunder Egg
A half title page showing a girl and her grandmother fetching wood in the winter.
Penan weaponry form the background.
Historical subjects are one of Winfield's specialties. Each subject is carefully researched, in order to ensure authenticity in costume, ornament, settings, and time period. Historical subjects he has illustrated include the Middle Ages, the Ottoman Empire, Indonesia, the American West, and Native Americans of North America, Mesoamerica, and South America.
English Knights Dueling, ca. 1290
While the concept of knights originated in the Roman empire, the introduction of stirrups in the Middle Ages led to the development of castles for defense and of heavy cavalry as a principle tactic, originally in response to Viking raids. By the first quarter of the 14th century, chain mail was being partly replaced by plate armor elements, but the primary defense was still chain mail over linen padding. The heaumes, or great helmets, now completely covered the knight's head, necessitating the development of cloth mantles or surcoats with identifying insignia. The surplices also protected the armor from over-heating. Crests often decorated the heaumes, as well.
Buccaroo Cowboy, ca. 1900
Cowboys of the Great Basin and the Plateau of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, were known as buckaroos, derived from the Spanish word vaquero, or cattleman ("cowboys"). They developed a style distinct both from that of the Texas cowboys and from the Northern Plains style of Montana, Wyoming and so on. They favored angora chaps, floppy-brimmed hats, and horse tack with a lot of silver. This style flourished around the turn of the last century.
The Conference, 18th century
Two gentlemen of doubtful character meeting in a waterfront tavern.
Comancheros, ca. 1840
Starting in 1765, traders from the Spanish settlements in New Mexico, known as Comancheros, traveled out into the plains of Texas to trade with the Southern Plains Indians. For the most part, the traders lacked firearms, but carried bows and arrows and lances in quivers. Cumbersome wooden carts were employed to haul trade goods, especially iron tools and weapons (except firearms, which were prohibited), out to the plains, and to carry buffalo hides back. The squeaking wooden wheels of these carts could be heard for miles. The trade fizzled out in the 1860s, with the advent of competing trade from Anglo traders from the East, and the disappearance of the buffalo. This is based on Josiah Gregg's description in Wah-to-yah, or the Santa Fe Trail, published in 1844, and is placed in the Quitaque Brakes on the Llano Estacado. It was published in Bridles of the Americas, Volume I: Indian Silver, by Ned and Jody Martin (2010).
Janissary Camp, ca. 1675
A Janissary camp in the Balkans, circa 1675. Two Janissary leaders are shown in conversation with a mounted pasha, in front of his yurt, or tent. Three mounted standards, or tughs, mark the Pasha’s tent. These consist of a bundle of horse or yak hair hitched in geometric designs, fixed on a wooden staff, and topped with a metal finial, often gilt.
The Turkish tugh reached its final form in the fourteenth century. It represented authority, especially of the military. This illustrates the first documented use of hitched horsehair; but the use of such standards derived from the central steppes, and the technique may have originated there, as well.
Cheyenne Scouts, 1806
This represents a contingent of Cheyenne scouts approaching a Mandan village in 1806, with horse masks as described in his journal by Canadian trader Alexander Henry. The scouts represent headmen of warrior societies: from front to back, the Buffalo Men (Red Shields); the Dog Soldiers; the Elk Men (Crooked Lances); and Kit Foxes (Swift Foxes).
Egyptian movie theater
This private movie theater was designed to reflect the French taste for all things Egyptian, following the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb by Amon Carter in 1922. The image on the proscenium depicts the island of Philae, on the Nile, with its Greco-Roman temple to Diana. The heiroglyphics read, "May the Earth God Gelb protect the lord of this house from earthquakes."
The statues depicting Hathor and Horus were carved by Paul Smith, Palo Alto, after designs by Winfield, and were then painted and gilded by Winfield. Hathor was the goddess of love and beauty, spouse to Horus.
Coronado's expedition of 1540 into the vast Plains of North America was a failure, in that the fabled Seven Cities of Cíbola, for which the Spaniards were looking so eagerly, were not found. But in the process, a number of the expeditions' horses escaped. Finding the plains congenial, the mustangs proliferated and spread, forming the basis for Plains Indian horse culture. The surprising rapidity with which the Plains Indians obtained horses is carefully documented by Mike Cowdrey orses and Bridles of the American Indians (2012), by Mike Cowdrey and Ned & Jody Martin. This image was used by the Smithsonian in its exhibit, "A Song for the Horse Nation."
Maps & Cosmograms
Maps are a useful adjunct to many different areas of research, such as history and ethnography, both to orient the reader and to emphasize relevant data. Cosmograms--that is, representations of cosmological precepts--are especially useful in researching indigenous belief systems, as they can summarize the spacial relationships of knowledge. Winfield's maps and cosmograms have been included in several different ethnographic publications, and also figured in murals.
Cosmogram: Emblematic Animals, Cheyenne
The shamanic world-view envisioned the universe as layered, with an Above World (the sky), a Middle World (the surface inhabited by humans and animals), and an Underworld, or Below World, in which various animals, fish, and even monsters dwelt. At dusk, the universe turns over, so that the night sky we see is actually the Underworld, through which the dead sun wanders until its rebirth in the morning. Various animals are associated different layers of the universe. The grizzly bear, whose name is used as a term of address for mother, guards the entrances to the Underworld.
Cosmogram: Shamanic Universe, Guyana
The indigenous peoples of Guyana Shield, like most shamanic peoples, view the universe as three-tiered, with the Above World linked to male energy, the Underworld with Female energy; both are necessary to keep the universe turning on its axis. Tobacco, jaguars, and above all the hummingbird are associated with shamans, who are able to traverse between the worlds to retrieve lost souls, and bring news from the Spirit World.
Map: Private Library Ceiling
In the 17th century, a leading school of cartography was located in Dieppe. The library ceiling of a private residence was painted with an interpretation of such a map.
Map: Private Library Ceiling, detail
Early maps were often richly decorated with small images depicting scenes typical of the various regions. Some of these were based on actual items, while others, such as Amazons and mermaids, were the result of fevered European imaginings.
A map of the Guyana Shield, a rocky plateau with a distinctive variety of Amazonian cultures.
Map of Mesquital Valley, Mexico
The Mesquital Valley is the homeland of the Otomí, more properly known as the Nahñu, an ancient desert people whose culture revolves around the cultivation of maguey.
Natural history has been a major interest of Winfield's since childhood. He especially enjoys painting horses, birds and cats, trees and flowers, but he is also attracted to metamorphic animals such as dragonflies and butterflies.
Cat and mouse
This illustration alludes to a humorous Penan story about the origin of the enmity between cats and rats or mice. (The Penan do not distinguish between rats and mice.)
Blue-and-yellow macaw & scarlet macaw
Both the blue-and-yellow macaw (Ara araruana) and the scarlet macaw (Ara macao) are sacred to the Amerindians of the Amazon, and indeed beyond. The tail feathers of the scarlet macaw symbolize the sun's rays, and are worn in headdresses by shamans and other men of importance, in order to link them to the Upper World powers. The birds are perched on a Bannisteria caapi vine, from the bark of which a concoction is made to induce a shamanic trance.
The rhinoceros hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) is one of the most important animals to the natives of Borneo, to whom it represented, among other things, headhunting. The male is well-known to naturalists and ornithologists for its singular practice of enclosing its mate in a nest constructed inside a tree; the opening is then nearly closed by a cement of excrement, rendering the nest safe from most predators. The female and her brood are fed by the male through the small aperture left at the nest's opening.
The trumpet vine or Jimson weed, Datura arborea, is both hallucinogenic and poisonous. It is associated with shamanic vision quests for many peoples, such as the Jívaro of Ecuador. Others, however, such as the Huichol of Mexico, consider it a noxious and dangerous plant.
While it appears tigers once inhabited Borneo, they have been extinct there for a long time. They are still remembered by the natives, however, partly because trade with neighboring Sumatra introduced tiger skins, which were used by several of the headhunting communities as armor. The Penan believed that tigers were dangerous spirits, which could materialize or disappear at will. The same term used for tigers also meant grandfathers, or ancestors.
Macaques, both long-tailed and pig-tailed, along with wild boar, formed a principle source of protein for the Penan until very recently, when they were still hunter-gatherers.
a flight of ducks
This image is an illustration from the children's book The Thunder Egg, by Tim Myers.
The jaguar, Panthera onca, is the apex predator over a surprisingly large area, originally found as far north as Colorado, in North America, most of Central America, and in the Amazonian forests. All Amerindians who have come in contact with this magnificent animal consider it to represent the forces of the Underworld, as it lives in caves, swims in the water, and hunts at night; and its markings resemble the stars. On the other hand, it can climb trees, and is the color of the sun; so it also embodies aspects of the Upper World, and the ability to transfer from one world to another. It is therefore associated by indigenous peoples with shamans, who likewise have the ability to translate between worlds.
king cobra and tiger leech
Krill, located near the bottom of the food chain, are of immense value to the health of the planet.
krill and mackeral
This is a little homage to the master painter Hiroshige.
The powerful harpy eagle (Harpia harpija) plays much the same role in Amazonian Indian cosmological ideas that the golden eagle and bald eagle do in North American indigenous beliefs--a symbol of Above World powers.
North American Indians
Winfield has been interested in, and drawing and painting, American Indians since a young age. For the last forty years, he has concentrated especially on Cheyenne art and culture, with many visits to the Cheyenne lands, north and south. However, he has researched other areas as well, as can be seen in his bibliography.
This image is an homage to the great Carl Bodmer, inspired by his famous image of the Mandan leader Pehriska-Ruhpa, only reinterpreted here as a Cheyenne. It seems likely that the Cheyenne society's dress was influenced by Mandan and Hidatsa society dress. The influence went both ways: a Mandan war whistle depicted by Bodmer, for example was quilled either by a Cheyenne, or less probably Arapaho or Gros Ventres, member of the Sewing Society.
The Thunder Egg: Grandmother and grandaughter
The Thunder Egg: Contrary Shaman
The man's hairdo, coiled above his forehead, and his body paint both indicate that he is a Contrary shaman, whose power derives from Thunder.
Stands by Herself
The young girl wears a container for an umbilical cord about her neck. The shape of the container alludes to the grasshopper, which is used to find buffalo. She carries a digging stick, and a painted bag for digging prairie turnips, one of which is seen at her feet.
Painter Society, fasting-Cheyenne
The Cheyenne obtained a society from the Arikara long ago, called the Painters' Society. The ordeal involved standing in the same spot without moving for a day and night. This died out about a generation ago, as it proved "too wicked"--too difficult.
Crow Warrior, ca. 1870
The Crow were long famous for their beautiful and elaborate clothing and horse gear. This particular type of flowing bonnet may in fact have originated among them. The bonnet and leggings are trimmed with tubed ermine skins.
Matachine Dance, Jémez Pueblo
The Matachine Dance was originally introduced to the Pueblos by the Spaniards, but like many such introductions, it was thoroughly adapted to Pueblo cultural needs. This depicts an incident in the Jémez version of the dance, held on December 12th.
Blackfoot woman with travois
Travois--poles tied together to pull loads--were originally pulled by large dogs. Once the horse had been introduced, however, the implement was enlarged and adapted to that animal, enabling the Plains Indians to transport many more goods with them.
South American Indians
Winfield's grandfather had a book, I Was a Head-hunter, by Lewis V. Cummings, that got him interested in Amazonian Indian culture in the same way that James Willard Schultz got him interested in Plains Indians, and Ernest Thompson Seton got him interested in natural history. Later, he did some ethnographic work among the Quechua Indians of the Peruvian Andes, and the Otomí Indians of highland Mexico, and still later did illustrations for Vanishing Worlds: Art and Ritual in Amazonia, by Adam Mekler (2005).
A male initiate into adulthood wearing traditional ornamentation.
Kayapó Woman and Child
This Kayapó woman and boy initiate are wearing ceremonial regalia for a major name-giving ritual. The woman's spectacular dorsal headdress, with a palm-frond support, is reserved for married women; that of the boy is worn either by women or children. The Kayapó are still fiercely resisting intrusion from the outside world, but this time through legal channels.
The feather headdress and shoulder ornament of this Jívaro (Shuar) warrior indicate a man who has accumulated a lot of spiritual power through the taking of heads. The Jivaró are famous for their former practice of shrinking heads as war trophies; although the term trophy does not indicate the complexity of their belief system, in which seemingly inanimate objects are in fact alive, and possessed of spiritual power.
Karajá Masked Dancer
This male dancer wears a traditional headdress/body costume, representing a fish.
The Ka'apor, also known less charitably as the Urubú (Vultures), are famous for their delicate and beautiful feather ornaments, worn for the name-giving ceremony. The Ka'apor have proven to be much better stewards of the environment that non-Indian settlers of the region they inhabit. Their numbers are low, and their way of life endangered.
A young man dressed for his coming-of-age ceremony. His costume includes a spectacular headdress composed of macaw feathers, and eagle down attached to his painted body. The Tapirapé, never a large group, are now culturally extinct.
This is a hodge-podge of images from other aspects of Winfield's work. They have nothing in common except an interest in a number of things.