Las principales expresiones del arte indígena en la actualidad son la textilería, la cerámica, cestería y orfebrería.

Los conocimientos ancestrales sobre su realización son traspasados de generación en generación, estando directamente asociados a actividades económicas desempeñadas por cada uno de los integrantes del grupo familiar, es así como, por ejemplo, es la mujer quien principalmente confecciona los tejidos y la cerámica.

La música y las danzas son manifestaciones que surgen de la necesidad del hombre de expresarse a través del movimiento y una experiencia espiritual y ritual. Se habla de los motivos espirituales caracterizados por el temor, peticiones o agradecimientos a la divinidad; de motivos afectivos o eróticos; del motivo guerrero para asustar al enemigo y autoexitarse para acometer la lucha, o del motivo ligado al festejo de la cosecha, nacimiento, muerte.

El purrun es la danza tradicional que aún hoy bailan en cada fiesta los mapuche. Siguiendo un ritmo repetitivo, se desplazan en torno al rewe, dando vueltas en torno al árbol sagrado y esperando que la música y el canto indiquen su comienzo y final con gritos y al compás del kultrun.

"...Este baile es el mas conocido y de tiempos inmemoriales ha desempeñado un papel muy importante tanto en las fiestas domésticas como en las guerreras que celebraban con el objeto de cantar la victoria... Consiste éste en unos saltitos hacia los lados o simplemente en su mismo lugar. Son saltos dados en el mismo sitio si los danzantes son dos, i avanzan a los flancos si lo efectúan varias parejas. La trutruka suena marcando notablemente los altos y bajos. La pareja inicia el baile levantando, al mismo tiempo que se da el tono alto, la pierna izquierda para bajar y levantar simultáneamente la derecha al darse el tono bajo de la música..."

(Manuel Manquilef. Comentarios del Pueblo araucano: jegos, ejercicios y bailes. Ediciones Serindigena. 2011).


The textiles of the Mapuche people are of prehispanic origin and it is mainly the women who practice this activity.

The spinning is done with a Kuilo (spindle) and the weaving is done on a Witral or vertical loom for large cloth. There are different types of creations in Mapuche textiles, such as: ponchos, rugs, blankets and bags.

In the origins of the textiles, a story of the oral Mapuche tradition says like this:

«One day, a young girl washed wheat in the river, when an old man came and kidnapped her; taking her to his lands. The old man married the young girl. They say he told her: "I´m going to Argentina, when I come back, I want all this wool knitted" The man left and the young girl stayed crying ¡ She didn´t known how to knitt! Crying next to the fireplace when the Choñoiwe Kuze, the old fire spoke to her: "You dont have to get sou upset, I´ll call the Lalen Kuze to help you". In a while she appeard, crawling down the fire place the Old Spider, she told the girl: "Do it like I do, watch me and you´ll learn how to knitt".

The days passed, when the man arrived, ther wool was knitted. Lalen Kuze when every night an helped the young girl, finishing both the work».

In this story whe can appreciate like a part of the textile activity is related with the sacred field and parrt of the religious sence of the Mapuche. Wisdom is a gift given by Chao Ngechen / God, to the human, being all life expressions supported by him.

This bond is represented by two femenin tutelary deitys, the "Old Fire" and the "Old Spider", that give this knowledgment to the young lady.

Mapuche Clothing

The traditional dress for a woman is the Chamal or Kepal; a square cloth, wrapped around the body leaving the shoulder naked, the waistband or Trarihue, which is tied to the waist; and the Ikulla, a black shawl with blue edges. The man wears black pants called Chiripa and the Makuñ, a finely woven poncho, which may have a simple decoration or rows of figures.

<< My mom told us that before, they would put on the Mapuche woman a small wool that is found in a tree - I think it is Hualle -, i i´s a special wool, it is on the mountains; but only the lucky one finds it, it is a real thin wool. When babies, the Mapuche girls would wrap their wrist, then they would be like spiders to knitt or weave, they would become experts in knitting. I´d tell my mom why wouldnt she look one for me, why did she not get me one when I was a baby. I dream that I was gonna weave some day; but I thought I would be slower because she didn´t put the thin wool on my wrist. She would tell me: << When big, it is harder, being a small baby is good, you have to look for it in the hills, it is a little hard; but you find it >>.

(Margarita Painequeo, Temuco, 1988).

Wooden Carving

Wood carving is one of the most traditional art manifestations in the mapuche territory. This technique took control of the utensils of old inhabitants of these lands, using for it the wood of the rich forests of the sector.

Today it is continued working in the same way, with the axe and chip axe carving the wood but creating new products, some functional such as plates, spoons and buckets, sources, trays and others, in those use and decoration invent hens dish, ducks and others.

They made utensils, plates, spoons, ritual masks.

This kind of handcraftship transits between the domestic function and the possesion of a ritual meaning, for example, the masks represent the Kollom playing a specific rol in the Nguillatun ceremony.

The Rehue and the Chemamull are carved trunks that finish in wide heads. The ritual mask, the Kollon, is finished with horsehair.


Sükill, joya pectoral

The Mapuche Plattery is based in its religious beleifes. Each piece has a special meaning, that trascends with the ornamental and has a magical value, for example, the "Kaskavilla" was the magical instrument that was used by the Machi to keep away bad spirits and the "Silver belt" allowed the bonding with the gods. The material used was silver with melting techniques and laminated with cold or hot percussion.

Retrafe or silversmith was the name of the man that realized traditionally this duty.

Chilean coins were also used, being laminated by beats.

The name of the pieces that make the trousseau is: Trarilonko (hair lace), Lloven Nitrowe (women´s ornament), Chaway (earings), Traripel (neck fitting), Tupu y Katawe (clothe pin) Kilkai (hanging necklace) Sükill or Trapelakucha (chest pendant), Pentreor (chest hanging of three chains). Equestrian accesories like the Ispuela (spur), Istipu (stirrup) or all of the ironwork (rein, pitch and the break) called in mapudungun Witram plata, Kafishatu and Ketrel piriña.

The dual organization of the Mapuche Worldview influences also in the material demostration of silverware. It explore two diferent worlds: the woman one, support of the symbolic Mapuche speech, in which the Ad Mapu tradition hides, through the written worldview in the forms and contents drawn in the silverware; and the masculine one, personified herness of the horse that represent the sumission of shapes and Huinka contents to the dominant Mapuche descendents.

«In Argentina, the Mapuche people say, that Moon, after a great argument with the Sun, spilled its tears, that were so hot that they became silver. The Mapuche people then picked them and took care of them through all the wonderful and magical forms of silversmithing»


It is the verbal expression of their traditions, rituals and stories, the natural way of giving education, value and spiritual beliefs.

The Nütram in the Mapuche World, is the conversation that interwaines bits of myths, medicine recipes and stories from relatives and dead and alive neighbours.

We also stand out the existence of a literal form of an ethnic content that manifests subjects in relation to the original cultures. A paper that the spaniard chroniclers and other nationalities did in favour of the memory of the indigenous cultures and thanks to that today we can recognice extint cultures.

The actual Mapuche poetry is represented by a significant number of poets, constituting a recognized space and standing out in the National Literature names like Leonel Lienlaf, Elicura Chihuailaf and Jaime Huenún between others.

Musical Instruments: The Kultrun

Foto: Kultrun, tambor ritual

The Kultrun sums up the cosmic and earthly components, material and inmaterial, representing a synthesis of universe; a topographic limit that separates the natural earthly world from the supernatural world. It represents the symbolic structure of the Mapuche worldview, and such structure reflects the existence of contradictions and internal conflicts in the Mapuche beleifs.

When we decipher their simbols we find the codes to understand its profound and hermetic meaning.

With the resound of the drawn membrane, the meaning starts to vibrate: a chain series of simbolical relations, openinng a new temporary infinite dimension.

The Kultrun

The Kultrun is the symbolic microcosmo of the Machi and the Mapuche Culture, in which it takes the shape of its particular spiritual conception of the universe.

Its drawn membrane represents the cosmic superstructure and its diverse inmaterial components, representing like the four divisions of the square earth platform, oriented according to the four cardinal points, beginnig in the East, up to the land of the Four Places, or Meli Witran Mapu. On the other side, the wooden pot of the Kultrun, with the symbolic objects introduced in it, represent the cosmic and earthly infrastructure with its diverse material components.

According to the Mapuche belief, from this moment on the voice and the energy of the owner will remain forever inside the Kultrun, creating like an identification of the Machi with the instrument, that will symbolize her own voice and her own shamanic power.

Once completed the introduction of the Machi´s voice, the instrument is closed strongly, tying the edge.

Musical Instruments


Rustic whistle with a single orifice, without a determined tone and a real high sound. In the Mapuche culture it represents a bird named "Ñandu" calling her sons. Those are the whistles that are usually used by the Kuriche, during the Mapuche rogation.


A large instrument that belongs to the family of aerophones. Galvanized pipe about 3 meters long with an old animal horn in one of its ends. The sounds comes when you exhale. It is played in the Patagonia and used in all types of ceremonies.

Its validity grade is very close to the chamanic practice of the Machi, being the one that practices the aborigin empiric-magical medicine and presides the different rituals of the Mapuche community.


Bronze instrument, in the past it was based on pumpkins. In the rogation, the Kaskawilla is played by the Ñankan, the Machi assistant.


This Mapuche musical instrument is used to cheer up parties. Its structure is of bone or stone. It is similar to the Pifilka, but it has more than one orifice.


The humidity of the southern weather has disabled the conservation of these objects. However the trail of mapuche baskets can be followed through the stories left by the first spanish chronicles and afterwards by travelers.

Metawe They are of usefull character principally. This mapuche basket can be considered like the most representative between their baskets. It has strong and thick texture that make besides the characteristics of its rigid fiber a container of great resistence and capacity. It serves to contain, move and wash grains such wheat and corn.

LLepu or Balai is the name that this mapuche basket receives, that is used mainly to throw and clean cereals. It is knitted in different places in the same way but with different materials: with Ñoca in Arauco, with Quila in Cautín and with Boqui Pifulco in San Juan de la Costa. The technique used is with the aduja, that gives objects of great resistence and lasting.

Foto: artesano de San Juan de la Costa tejiendo un walay

Huilliches baskets

In San Juan de la Costa near Osorno, baskets knitted with Boqui is quite characteristic.

Two typesof baskets are elaborated. The one that uses "Quila" as raw material, it can be used to make baskets of various sizes destined for sale or domestic use: closets, baskets for washing clothes and wool. Baskets for wheat, to pick potatos or murtas. And the one that use "Boqui" as raw material, worked with the needle technique and the buttonhole stich: this production is of specialists and since the 80´s decade it is orientated to the matket. The "Boqui" is a variety of bindweed that grows in the mountains in the thickest part of the native forest, offering thickness and solidity to this handcraft.


Nowadays, in the Mapuche territory a large variety of pottery is still manufactured. The most Known Metawes has simple line and natural colors . In the past, Ptirèn, represented the degree of development reached by this art before the arrival of the conquers .

The Mapuche pottery are slowly disappearing by lack of use. They distinguish various stylistic, but generally they are asymmetrical with shapes of ducks or frogs, some with eyes "coffe grain" tipe, cups like vasses and plates. But we have to stand out the pieces called "effigy dishes", with clays natural colour. Some represent human beings or objects such as "duck-dishes" or "frog-dishes", posibly linked to "ngenko", "the owner of the waters" . between the pottery objects that represent human beings, we stand out various pieces that represent a standing pregnant woman with her hands hugging or touching her womb, in clear allusion to the idea of fecundity.


Dance is an activity practiced by man, that was born by the human necesity of expression. It is being spoken like spiritual motives characterized by fear, petitions or gratitudes to the divinity; of erotic or afective reason; of the warrior reason to scare the enemy and self excite himself to attack in battle, or the reason leagued to the crop celebration, etc.

All this explain why dancing involves a message, it is significant and has a spìritual content besides the esthetic one.