In the Mapuche culture, women are expected to perform a large variety of important roles, including: raising children, caring for a husband, maintaining the house and lands, cultivating small gardens, tending to livestock, preserving and transmitting the culture to future generations, all whilst generating additional income. The generation of income, thanks to the utilization of ancestral weaving techniques, has granted the Mapuche woman dignity and importance inside of her familiar and socio-cultural environments.
Historically in the Mapuche culture, weaving skills were passed from mother to daughter at an early age. However, the reality today is that many factors impede this dissemination of information. The majority of women with whom we work leave their families at a very young age in order to find work in urban areas and support their families from afar. This migration removes women from their culture and from receiving education in weaving, farming, and other practical skills in the rural areas.
As women return to the country to begin a family of their own, they have missed years of the rural training described above. However, they often have a very basic understanding of traditional weaving techniques, and the Chol-Chol Foundation aims to supplement this knowledge with workshops and trainings. This focus on textile production now provides a large array of benefits, from reviving an ancestral art, to providing women with a source of income with flexible working conditions - because a loom can be set up in any area, women are able to perform their work within their homes and according to their own busy schedules. It also allows them to stay in the country, on their land and with their family, rather than relocating to a city to find employment.
The Chol-Chol Foundation supports Mapuche weavers in many ways, from the beginning of our Women’s Program in the 1990s to the fair trade commercialization of artisan goods today. The group of artisans with whom we have worked closely for over 15 years is the Wallontu Witral Indigenous Association. The association is a group of about 120 artisans that live within 6 regions of Araucania.
Through capacity building and increased market access, these women now have a more stable income and marketable skills, leading to societal recognition, self-sustainability and overall empowerment.
Meet some of the Wallontu Witral artisans.