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Last year I was introduced to the idea of concepts in an artwork.  To me this is an idea or a story that I have to tell though my object in Ceramic Studios.  It is not as simple as it sounds.  A lot of research goes into building up from the initial idea.

For this project in Experimental Writing Elective, I have to tell a story through my object, installation, etc.  More or less the same techniques that I have been doing in Ceramics Studio but this time I started with a poem that was written by Elicura Chihuailaf.   From this poem I have to create an artwork that will tell the same story as the poem but in a non written text.  I can not use text or paper as this is known to be the traditional way of ‘writing’.

Elicura Chihuailaf is a poet and writer who was born in Quechurewe, from the Araucanía region in Chile, 1952.

His speciality is telling stories in his dialect Mapudungun, which is the language spoken by one group of original dwellers of Chile before the Spaniards took over in the 16th century, the Mapuches.  The Mapuches are the largest group of original dwellers of an area in the south of Chile known Araucanía.

I decided to research the Mapuches so I can begin to understanding the history of my country Chile as well as to have a better understanding, appreciation and support for the Mapuches as my ancestors.

Elicura Chihailaf is a Mapuche and belongs to the Mapuche Nation.  He studied obstetrician/gynaecologist at the University of Concepción, but he was not allowed to practice his profession during the dark years in Chile[1].  I assume that the dark years he refers to in his book are the years surrounding 1973, when the there was a military coup lead by Augusto Pinochet and the CIA where they took over the government lead by Salvador Allende[2].

Elicura Chihailaf is a university lecturer and a member of the Chilean Academy of the Language.  In addition he is a member and the Secretary General of the Association of Native Writers who have forced academic critiques to take notice of the rich literature of the Mapudungun that has always being a part of Chile, but has been denied[3].

All his poems are first written in Mapudungun and then he writes them in Spanish.  There are many videos of Elicura on Youtube, where you will be able to listen to his poems and verses.

I have chosen to work with the following poem entitled:

  • Tvfaci mapu mew mogeley wagvben in Mapudungun
  • In Spanish the title is: En este suelo habitan las estrellas
  • and in English the title would be: In this soil inhabited by the stars

Tvfaci mapu mew mogeley wagvben (Mapudungun)

Tvfaci mapu mew mogeley wagvben
Tvfaci kajfv wenu mew vlkantuley
ta ko pu rakiduwam
Doy fvta ka mapu tañi mvlen ta komv
xipalu ko mew ka pvjv mew
pewmakeiñmu tayiñ pu fvcakece yem
Apon kvyeh fey tañi am -pigekey
Ni hegvmkvleci piwke fewvla ñvkvfvy.

The translation in Spanish is:

En este suelo habitan las estrellas

En este suelo habitan las estrellas.
En este cielo canta el agua
de la imaginación.
Más allá de las nubes que surgen
de estas aguas y estos suelos,
nos sueñan los antepasados.
Su espíritu -dicen- es la luna llena.
El silencio, su corazón que late.

When i found the poem in Spanish the translation was already done from Mapudungun.  This poem was taken from his book entitled El Invierno su imagen y otros poemas azules, 1991 (Winter’s image and other blue poems).

I have translated this poem to English to be able to make my artwork.

In this soil inhabited by the stars

In this soil inhabited by the stars

In this sky, sing the waters of imagination

Beyond the clouds that rise

from this water and this soil

Our ancestors dream of us

Their spirits – say – it’s the full moon

The silence their beating heart

Now that my poem has being translated I have to begin to understand what the writing is telling me.

In this soil inhabited by the stars

The soil for the Mapuches is their land.  So when it says that this soil inhabited by the stars, it’s referring to the Mapuche people living on this earth now.

In this sky, sing the waters of imagination

The Mapuche people live in the south of Chile in an area referred to as La Araucanía.  View map.



The Araucania is an area where there is a lot of rain and the more modest houses have tin roofs.  When it rains, there is a lot of lightning.  The sky singing is the noise the water makes when it hits the tin roofs.

Beyond the clouds that rise from this water and this soil, Our ancestors dream of us.

Our ancestors that are no longer here on earth (because they are dead) are in between us, who are still left on this land.  Our ancestors are amongst us, they are with us.

Their spirits – say – it’s the full moon

Our ancestors are telling us that they are the full moon, and the silence of the night, their hearts beating.  Their hearts that are still alive.

[1] Elicura Chihuailaf, De sueños azules y contrasueños,  Libros de Iggdrassil, 2002.