Weaving the Junco: Reflections by LA Director Jesse Carmichael

Collecting junco under the direction of Julia

Places are people.
Julia Gonzalez is a Yagán elder, artist, teacher; daughter to Ursula Calderon, sister to Christina and beloved great
Julia is one of the few who still holds and speaks the language of the Yagán.
On New Years Eve we meet her on the road by Bahia Robalo and the middens to learn the craft of weaving small baskets from Juncus scheuchzeriodes, a rush found in the riparian forests and peat bogs in Magallanes region.

Julia teaching Field Environmental Philosophy students

Places are stories.
We all lean in to listen as she tells some of the story of the land around us and then we look out at what was once was a village—mounded walls of collected shells, now covered with a blanket of grasses, mosses, and small white and yellow summer flowers, Centella or Anémone decapetala and the delicate Pilludén or Violeta amarilla.

In the 90s the when the Airport road came, plans were to bulldoze the old walls to make room for the cars. However, Ricardo Rozzi and Francisca Massardo knew that these “mounds” were important to the island and the people and his Omora team intervened to remind the men building the road, that the mounds were a story, and history and an important reminder of a place and time, that needed to be preserved and remembered…and honored.

Reading place, reading fire, seeing with our hands.
Julia shares:
How to look under the trees along the borders of the bog, along the dead logs to find the good long blades – green to the top.
Filling the circle created when we join our index and thumb with the gathered blades, that it a workable amount.
How to transform the slender but tough rush blades into weavable things. How to feel what she knows and shows…but still remains a mystery in my hands and eyes.
Building the fire at the quincho to cook the blades (Quincho signifies “the place of the bbq, whether it be inside or out – the word describes place in terms of function”)
We all bring our bundles to Julia for her approval – is the blade done? Can this be woven? How do we know when they are right?
Like many artists the craft of the rush and the weaving is more about the feeling, as nurturing is to aunties, mothers and grandmothers. This is something I do know, as a mother, our knowledge must be felt to be learned.

Actually it is this moment I recall so clearly.
There is a subtle feel to the blade when it is ready to be woven. Something that my fingers cannot yet feel.
This is her story.

Julia Gonzalez holds knowledge that must be felt again and again and again, to be known.

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