Antonio Catrileo Araya, Constanza Catrileo Araya, Malku Catrileo Araya, Alejandra Carrión Lira, and Manuel Carrión Lira, artists from two Mapuche families, gathered in 2016 and since then formed the Catrileo+Carrión Community, dedicated to research investigative practices and multidisciplinary creation.
Kizungünewün epupillan / Spiritual Self-Determination. Dir. Catrileo+Carrión Community, video essay/experimental video, 2019, Spanish and Mapuzungun.
An Affective Community
We think of ourselves as an affective constellation. We have self-identified as a community since we have lived all together throughout various moments of our lives. We combine life with art, and we like to imagine that they are intertwined and that we are as well. We insist upon being a community. Our ways of relating come from poyewün (affection) as a political provocation that explores different languages to communicate and create networks of reciprocity through art. We decided to call ourselves a community since the word “collective” does not fit in with our practice, which is not solely artistic. It is also a provocation that we aim as much at the traditional Mapuche world as at the Chilean world since we are a community of “non-heterosexual” indigenous people, where gay, lesbian, trans, queer, and non-binary experiences are political practices.
Weavers, Not Visual Artists
The reasons behind seeing ourselves as weavers and not as visual artists have to do with our need to abandon the category of “contemporary art” / ”visual art” as the purpose of our work. Our work passes through the art world, where we have gotten to know amazing people and communities, but their vital potential does not end there. So, we shift the purpose of our work, since we have also borne the brunt of neoliberal and multicultural harassment in the art world, specifically when others try to deny or placate our existence. This is the political work of weaving: choosing between that which remains visible and that which remains invisible. Weaving is thus also understanding the interrelationship between things and people, so the word “weaving” allows us to frame our video essay, editorial work, speculative writing, performative-ceremonial actions, and our practice of Mapuche witral (ancestral weaving) as a constant flow of experimentation with the mapu (land) or, as the kimche (wise elder) Juan Ñanculef would say, with the materia (material).
Epupillan: Free Souls
We have learned from the experiences of Mapuche activists and from other indigenous nations. They have protected knowledge about the epupillan for a long time, because from their own sovereign territories that is how people transitioning between the masculine and feminine were thus designated. It has been a way of keeping the memory of our ancestors alive, who were harshly repressed and condemned under the category of “nefarious sinners” or “sodomites.” In the history of colonialism, that is how people who relate in ways that are different from heteronormativity have been described. Epupillan is a way of calling people who in the present may be sexually dissident. But the usefulness of epupillan is that it is not solely limited to a sexual category, although we do not deny that many epupillan people also identify as being part of the LGBQTI+ spectrum. So, we cannot separate our sexuality and our pleasure from the land we inhabit. That is the political potential of epupillan that we claim. In the Mapuche community, few people want to talk about this because there is a lot of discrimination, but in recent years there has been a veritable surge of people who are retrieving these epupillan memories.
Textile piece woven in sheep wool, ñimikan technique. Kumeyaay Land (USA), 2021.
Kimün, Mapuche knowledge associated with witral (weaving) comes from the memory of the Catrileo lof (community). Antonio, Constanza, and Malku have taught us that weaving is more than a technique with symbolic value. It is really a process of political recovery of memory that can interrupt multiple processes of dispossession, because it emphasizes the discourses of hybrid cultures, interfering with white superiority, which in countries like Chile operate through the erasure of any trace of indigeneity or Afro-descendance. The process of learning from witral (weaving) is accompanied by dreams (pewma), visions (perimontu) and, above all, by the need to create community. Through learning witral (weaving), our community has recovered the Mapuche knowledge of our own families and communities. Because for us, weaving, which is an ancestral technique, is accompanied by another being, and another temporality. It is a point of access for communication with our ancestors. So, initiating connections through witral (weaving) removes the memory of shame and omission from the narratives of kin that seek to obscure stories of migration, poverty, and anti-indigenous discrimination. Witral (weaving) not only exposes our colonial wounds, but also accords us possibilities to imagine how to form other worlds, with other rhythms, weights, tension, colors, and programming logic, since weaving is also a form of programming.
Chile: A New Constitution and Indigenous Sovereignty
We await real transformation of the epistemological conditions in the construction of the Chilean nation-state. We dream of an end to prison institutions, the police, and borders. We hope that the new Constitution will not only recognize the indigenous peoples as existent and not obsolete, but as sovereign, autonomous, and capable of self-governance. This is a very radical idea, but imagining this underlines our love of community, since for us the best Constitution would be one which would allow us to build something different. It is important to rethink Chile, but that is not all: we also want to think about Chileyem’s provocation, in other words, Chile is already gone; something else is yet to come.
The way that indigeneity is understood is very limited, and we want to question and discuss that with other people, because indigeneity is not necessarily determined by the recognition and laws established by nation-states. We do not believe that to be the only way of being indigenous. We would like to propose other solutions for indigenous communities with whom we have been connected, who have recognized us, and with whom we can reclaim our memory so as not to be forgotten. Where our agency does not have to be mediated solely through Chilean politics to determine whether we are or are not indigenous, a process that is based on being pure-blooded. Because for the nation-states, indigeneity is seemingly something that disappears over time and ends up being coopted by national identity. We are peoples who have been living for thousands of years, and changing tradition is essential to our survival. Our indigeneities are looking and walking toward the 21st century. The discrimination and stereotypes that have been made about us need to be transcended.
Anna Azevedo is a journalist, filmmaker, and scholar of the visual arts with a focus on processes of re-employment of the image and decolonization of contemporary art.
Translation: Sara Hanaburgh