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Home/Stories and articles/Recovery
December 2002

Angela Riquelme, artisan from Pil Pil Voqui:
The white Mapuche basketwork

Angela Riquelme, an artisan from San José de la Mariquina (town close to Valdivia) makes beautiful pieces of a traditional basketwork inspired on the zone's Indian community. The art of the "Pil Pil Voqui", of which it is generally known just their round trays, covers a wide universe of useful objects and decorative figures that rescue mapuche costumes.

The baskets, trays and figures made by Angela Riquelme with skill and talent, are not made out of willow, but of a fabric called "voqui-pilpil", taken from a bush "very similar to that of the copihue, found on humid areas". It is a typical art form from the mapuche rural communities, at the coast of the Tenth Region.

"We take the green sticks. You have to boil them and then leave them soaking in a flow of natural water for at least two weeks. Then you press, peel and carve them. That means, you take out their roots and joints, till leaving them smooth. You put them to dry out and, when knitting, you moisten them so they become softer. There is also the red voqui", says Angela.

She was born in San Jose de la Mariquina, thirty miles away from Valdivia to the coast. She inherited her husband's family's traditional job.

"From Mehuin to Panguineo, you see men, women, even children doing this", she says. Fish, birds, black-neck swans, cows, ducks and other animals are part of the landscape reproduced on this hand-knitted figures, done with just the help of scissors and a small punch. "We get inspiration from what we see, what surrounds us", she explains. "Also the things of the shack. There are some costumes that start to disappear, but that you don't want to loose".

That's how the "balai", a kind of very flat platter, very typical of the mapuches, is still being used to clean the corn used for making "mote" or "toasted flour". The "chaihue", deeper and with two carrying handles, is used for cleaning the "mote". And in the "chini", one leaves the potatoes and vegetables. There are also some ceramic objects of domestic use, such as the "metahue", a pitcher where one pours a drink made of fermented cereal called "mudai". The same with folkloric instruments such as the "trutruca", "kultrún" or "pifilca", which are reproduced on voqui-pilpil.

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