A recount of my personal experience in Mapuche weaving during some very cold days of July 2017 in Buenos Aires.
Part of my fascination with Mapuche weaving is engrained in its inherent complexity both in the finished product and in its process. I have always admired Mapuche textiles mainly through its cultural significance but I never had a good understanding of its process. Understanding the sacred quality of these textiles meant that I needed to weave my way through the process of weaving, feeling the threads in my hands, touching and discriminating a warp end from another. The way the warp ends alternate creates a rhythm, a cycle in the weaving process. There is an order, a hierarchy to be respected. An ancient knowledge and tradition that comes through by the understanding of the technique and which brought tears to my eyes by the simple act of weaving my understanding through the wool yarns.
A very simple loom is used (witral) which is a big rectangle made by two vertical sticks (wuicha wuichawe) and two horizontal (quilwos). These sticks are the ones holding the warp. Smaller round sticks are also used in the process of warping and the upper one (raninelhue) will remain throughout the weaving process to separate different layers in the warp.
Betty Taranto and Jorge Mari are two wonderful teachers who have devoted their careers to learning and teaching Mapuche weaving techniques. They have been passionate enough to recover long lost techniques by studying old textiles, and they have been playing an important social role in promoting Mapuche knowledge, appreciation and understanding. They are currently working with Artesanias Neuquen in a series of workshops which aims to help Mapuche weavers to recover traditional techniques which haven’t been passed on from older to younger generations.
I spent three six hour days with Betty Taranto and Jorge Mari in a wonderful warm environment in which I was able to discover not only the techniques I was craving to learn but also I was able to discuss some aspects of the Mapuche weavers daily lives.
I learnt three techniques: Urdido circular suplementaria, Nimin laboreo forzado con base de peinecilla and tubular doble tela.
As a weaver myself I was able to judge the level of difficulty of these techniques. Mapuche weaving knowledge is engrained in its own culture, its own way of being and living. It became apparent when I sat in front of a witral that time needed to slow down, that my intuition needed to be engaged and that my mind/body coordination needed to be in the present moment. As part of the tubular doble tela I was challenged with the many cruzes needed for a weft pass as well as struggling with the warp ends to discriminate which ones needed to be in front to be able to draw. When I was able to brake down the technique into understandable meaningful steps I was half way through the faja. I found that this weaving knowledge could only be acquired by observation of the process and by the actual process itself. It confirmed that Mapuche weaving is a language in itself, with its linguistic characteristics that need to be understood within the context of the process…
It opened my eyes to what is yet to come. We need to sustain what has been in order to imagine what will be.
For more information about how to learn Mapuche weaving please click here
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