La Manila (Phormium Tenax) y la cestería utilitaria de la isla de Chiloé

The Manila (Phormium Tenax) and the utilitarian basketry of the island of Chiloé

Vegetable fibers have been worked in Chiloé since time immemorial, although the oldest graphic references that exist of objects of this type are drawings by travelers who toured the island shortly after its annexation to the Republic of Chile, in 1826.

In the 70's, Oresthe Plath, - the great national folklorologist - studied and investigated the artisanal production of Chiloé, classifying the pieces according to their utilitarian or ornamental use. The utilitarian pieces have to do with the rural-peasant world and its needs.

They include baskets used in collecting, storing and preparing food; the lita (basket for winnowing wheat), the llole, the pilhua and the caipué (baskets and bags for collecting potatoes, apples, seafood, seaweed), the chaihue (basket for straining chicha), the baskets for chickens (for nesting or transferred for sale in the city), the tumbillos, the chiguas. Ropes were also produced; muzzles (to prevent calves from suckling and allow cows to be milked), Alar ropes (twisted or braided ropes for tying animals), and vein ropes (ropes used to tie boats), nets, brooms, brooms, mats and hats among others.

Among the plant fibers most used in these utilitarian pieces is Manila (Phormium tenax), an evergreen and perennial coastal plant, native to New Zealand. This plant allows it to be grown at home, making it easier to harvest. The leaves are cut with a knife from the base when they are 1 to 3 meters long. They are then torn longitudinally, making bundles or bunches and left to dry for 1 to 3 weeks. After this process, the fiber is ready to be worked and shaped into useful and beautiful objects and pieces like these that we highlight in our catalog:

You want to know more?

Aldunate del Solar, C. (2016). Chiloé. Santiago: Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art ( Download book )

Plath, O. (1973). Traditional art from Chiloé. Santiago: Museum of American Popular Art, University of Chile, Faculty of Fine Arts. ( Download book )

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