Pampa and Mapuche weaving

It is important to point out the differences between Pampa and Mapuche weaving

When we speak about Pampa weaving, we refer to sashes, belts, headbands and straps for colt skin boots. They are woven in a horizontal loom which, at first, consisted of two stakes or posts driven firmly into the ground with a distance between them equivalent to the length of the cloth to weave. The warp is wound in continuous figure eights around these stakes and the weft yarn is drawn vertically through the warp, not from side to side, but in continuous figure eights. A series of small sticks are used to separate the several crossings which form the two layers that the cloth will have, each one with its own crossing, divided by a stick called “cacique”. The sash would literally form a tube if the threads of these layers are not altered. On the other hand, when the threads are modified to form a pattern, the cloth remains double but joined by the altered threads of the warp. This is why this weaving is called tubular. Pampa weaving represents the coalescence of everything, sky/earth/underworld. It links the man who lives on Earth with the Cosmos and this is why it is woven transversely.

Both cloths joined together by the symbols refer to duality, white/black, summer/winter, day/night. One does not exist without the other. It is the representation of harmony, balance, and transformations. The slow passage from day to night, from winter to summer, of birth, of growth, of the evolution of the soul.

The air which passes through both cloths brings the sash to life, giving protection and wisdom to whom wears it.

It is not by chance that this type of weaving is worn around the waist or on the head or feet. Man´s head represents the sky, his waist, the Earth and his feet, the underworld.  Hence, the headbands, the sashes and the colt skin boot straps.

When we speak about Mapuche weaving, we refer to sashes, ponchos, mantles, rugs, blankets, saddlebags, saddle blankets and saddle pads. There are different weavings and different techniques to make them. The sashes are double-faced and called Traruwe (women) and Traruchiripa (men.

A loom called witral, which means, to be vertical, essentially consists in a rectangular wooden frame formed by four stakes (two crosspieces and two beams).

Weavings from this type of loom make a specific petition to the skies: protection, fertility and abundance. This is why the symbol/pattern on these weavings goes throughout the entire piece.  “Peinecillo”, a ladder technique, is used on the edges of the sashes to build up the power of the symbol and intensify its strength.

Unlike the Mapuche sash, the Pampa sash is not woven with ”peinecillo” technique  because it would block all its strength. The Pampa sash must flow, interact with the universe, allowing the duality of the cosmos.

The “peinecillo” technique is not used for aesthetic, but for cosmological reasons.

As my grandmother taught me, although tubular sashes can be woven on a Witral loom, they differ from the Pampa in their designs. Mapuche tubular sashes represent the external world of men; they refer to nature, to the landscape and the animals. Their iconography includes representations of men, animals, plants and mountains. Mapuche tubular sashes are woven vertically, they symbolize a prayer to the ancestors and they have specific patterns which are interlinked with the different techniques used.

Pampa sashes represent the inner world of men; they refer to their souls, fears, achievements and spiritual events. Their iconography is geometric, making reference to the symbolic power of animals and nature and not to their graphic representation, as Mapuche sashes do. They are and must be woven horizontally because they represent and pray for the union of man and Cosmos.

Weaving a Pampa sash on a Witral or a Mapuche sash on a Pampa loom is to desecrate two rituals and two ancient cultures.

05 telar Pampa Telar Mapuche 06 faja tubular pampa 07 Faja tubular mapuche DSC_0200