Cultivating beauty from nature

Mawo Argentina, Basketry



Santa Fe New Mexican

Art, Adversity

From a plant that’s known as a thorny nuisance among farmers in Argentina comes a fiber enabling artisans to reap the benefits of nature in creative ways, combining ancestral values with modern environmental concerns. Members of the Indigenous Wichi tribe in northern Argentina create handmade products from chaguar, an evergreen plant resembling yucca. After labor-intensive processes to prepare the plant for weaving, its fibers become patterned purses, ponchos, rope, baskets and carpets. An ancient Wichi weaving technique forms variations of pattern, including sacred tribal geometry. Dyes are derived from roots, leaves, fruits and ashes. Chaguar is more than a resource for ancient rituals and new economic opportunities. “Each piece speaks of a landscape and its people,” said Sandra Toribio, representative of the Wichi artisan brand known as MAWO (translating as mountain fox). “We seek to influence the rescue and revaluation of crafts as a form of cultural transmission of our community, where everything is the result of shared effort with the community.” The 40-member group is 98 percent female, supporting “the empowerment of every woman through work,” the group’s IFAM application stated. MAWO products embrace minimalism in principle and practice. The label “Wichilhenay” means “handmade by Wichi.” The group focuses especially on benefiting needy rural communities as well as orienting new generations of artists. “Ethnoeducation is valuable for our people,” said Toribio. “There is heritage and ancestral wisdom” in each creation.