Chiloé is an island off the coast of Chile about the same latitude as Tasmania, though Chiloé is probably even colder and wetter than Tasmania. Like Tasmania, Chiloé has a resilient craft tradition. Borne of the mixture of indigneous Maphuche and Spanish traditions, Chiloé is a proud refuge of traditional folkore, manifest in is fantastic mythologies, thumping music and especially weaving. One of the first Chilote towns you encounter after leaving the ferry from Porte Montt is Ancud. Marcia Mancilla is a resident and has established a significant textile workshop called Kelgwo, after the Mapuche name for loom. There she works with Mapuche women using the traditional methods of weaving and experiments with different dyes to embue her works with the local grasses and barks. Her more sculptural creation incorporate grasses to create a warm reflection of the muted hues of the Chilote landscape. Her clothes are solidly woven making the most of handspun techniques and employing her own designs. Maria’s work can be found in Design for Valparaiso and on her website.
Chiloé is quite isolated from the mainstream. It took me six hours by bus to reach my destination after leaving the closest airport. One venerable inhabitant described her town to me, with a smile, as the ‘fin del mundo’ (end of the world). With few riches and far from the entertainment capitals, Chiloé is a shining example of how the common can be made precious.
For an account of the South Kids story that was delivered to the children of a school in Quinchao, go to the Undercurrents post.