The star is the chaguar
To spread awareness about the timeless techniques of this ancient craft, Tecpetrol has created an interactive photo library. The people behind this initiative at the Aguaragüe field tell us all about it.
It all began with a set of photos. A photo library took center stage as the protagonist in the proceedings, simultaneously a product of one of Tecpetrol's main initiatives: strengthening cultural values in the places where it has operations. “There are several craftsmen and women creating unique items in the area,” explains Andrea Fernández, Human Resources Business Partner Manager, “but as the years go by, many of these customs become lost, as young people no longer follow in their parents’ footsteps and some traditions just fade away. That’s why it seems so important to us to revalue the process of the chaguar.”
The chaguar is a plant whose fiber has been used since ancient times by the Wichí ethnic group, living in the north of the country, in the provinces of Salta, Formosa and Chaco. The fibers are cured, treated, and a flax made which is then spun and turned into fabric to make objects for domestic use. "We have a project underway with the Tartagal Secretary of Culture where we are collecting photos and videos showing these local handicrafts and products so that we can make audiovisual presentations about ancestral traditions to use in traveling exhibitions to tour schools, for example," says Luciana Fernández, CORE Analyst.
Both formats, the photo library and the video, explain these craft processes in detail, giving step-by-step explanations of how the chaguar is worked. “It’s much more than just making a piece of fabric. The whole process tells a story as it’s to do with their cultural traditions and their stories,” says Andrea, while Luciana adds: “The Secretariat takes the exhibition around local schools as required. We proposed, in addition to the photo library, actually adding products made from chaguar that hadn’t been completed, like bags and baskets, so that the students could finish making them: the idea is for them to take part in their preparation and enjoy a different kind of experience.”
Today the photo library is available to everyone who visits the central hall of the Cultural Center of Indigenous Peoples, in Tartagal, where a number of chaguar products are also on sale. Andrea: explains how this “is one more step to help promote tourism in the yunga region, the thickly forested mountains. This is where the wealth of our ancestors lies, as it’s the largest concentration of ethnic groups in the country, with peoples such as the Wichí, Chané, Chorotes, Tobas, and Guarani. Small actions like this, done jointly with other partners, can help society to revalue them.”
The explanation, as always, goes further. Luciana says that, “These initiatives about culture often seem less relevant in the whirlwind of everyday life. Perhaps people don’t give it the value it deserves, but it’s also our land, our nation, and we must learn to appreciate what’s ours and give it its due importance. We mustn’t forget who we are. For us and, above all, for our children, so that they continue to have first-hand knowledge of the range of cultures inhabiting their land.”
The traveling photo library is planning a longer road trip: the chaguar exhibition is just the starting point. Today, there are many handicrafts such as ceramics, basketry, or Chané masks made with yuchan which are not yet represented. “That’s our project. Our intention is to ensure that each piece of craftwork has a kind of certificate of origin, which includes the explanation and history of how it was made and all the tradition lying behind it,” concludes Andrea, conjuring up the image of generations and generations passing on their knowledge, perfecting it, to last over time.