Nias Zavatta


The Mapuche people's struggle to safeguard Wallmapu-the land, the sky and its newen-and their identity finds women central.
Newen, it's woman and nature | ©Nias Zavatta (©DooGReporter, ©2023)

This post is also available in: Italiano

They told us that our language was dead, but our struggle never stopped. Now we again ask permission from Nature and her spirits, fight for her, and claim our language: Marichiwen.

Araucanía, Cile

The indigenous peoples of the American continent define themselves essentially through their relationship with the land. The land is identity: past, present and future.

The Mapuche people of the Araucanìa – a region in the south of Chile where the most significant percentage of the indigenous ethnic population is concentrated – embody and proudly defend all this. Mapuche itself means ‘people of the land‘ (mapuland; chepeople).
And it is not the earth understood purely as soil but extends to the entire Wallmapu: the land, the sky and its newen (energy and spirits). The land represents, in the words of an indigenous activist, ‘the living pages of our unwritten history‘ (P. Wearne).

It is easy to understand how for this people, centuries and centuries of land expropriation mean more than ‘mere’ theft. They are a denial of their own identity.

But the earth is also the one who heals, the one who through the figure of the machi (which could imprecisely be translated as ‘healer‘) provides remedies for alternative medicine therapies. Over the years, this medicine has been trying – not without difficulty – to make its way into even the most traditional circles. Rooted in their culture for thousands of years, and now also studied in some of the country’s medical school classrooms, Mapuche medicine is striking in its complexity and solidity. The machi is the pivot of all this (in most cases a woman): she is the bridge between Nature and human beings.

The earth has always been Mother and, for the Mapuche, it is first and foremost a seat of knowledge. In their culture, women play a leading role in preserving and passing on culture and traditions. After centuries of struggle and resistance, the chain cannot break.

The Mapuche woman is also a symbol of strength and centrality because she is the machi, the one who safeguards the health and balance of the community through her kimun (gift) placed at the service of all those who wish to approach her, a medium that connects with the dimension of the spirits of the ancestors and the Earth.

For this and much more ‘la lucha para reconquistar y rivendicar nuestro Wallmapu seguirà‘. Words resound in the air, and the sounds of the Mapudungun, birds and native spirits are charged with mystery, mist and the smoke rising from the Ruka fire.

(the land) … the living pages of our unwritten history

Text & Photos: Nias Zavatta 
Photo Editor: Gabriele Orlini 
Original text in Italian - In house translation
Araucanía, Cile
DooG's Contributor
Nias Zavatta

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