Perthyn Patagonia 2015-16

Cefyn Burgess travelled to Patagonia in October 2015 with support from the Arts Council of Wales. Here's some information about the visit and his future aims for the project.

Cefyn Burgess PERTHYN PATAGONIA 2015-16

My first visit to Patagonia took place during October 2015, a relatively quiet time in the activities program of the Welsh community of Patagonia, following the 150 celebrations.

During my two-week visit to Trelew, I was able to explore the wool industry of Argentina, from the farm to the factory, to the craftspeople using the fine wool. Trelew is the main region for the production and processing of high quality Marino wool for the international market, and so a perfect place to explore the industry.

I was lucky enough to visit a Welsh family farm, a sheep shearing station an hour south of Trelew and a wool processing factory, where I could see the washing, combing and processing of the wool ready for export. I hope to be able to combine this fine Patagonian wool with Welsh wool in the weaving of the final tapestry for this project.

I met with four different traditional craft groups and workshops. Two of the groups were run by indigenous people of the Tehuelche and Mapuche tribe of Trelew and Gaiman, whilst the other two groups were part of a community education craft development project in Trelew. I had the privilege of learning about the traditional skills of spinning, natural dying and weaving of Patagonia. I was also given the opportunity to explore and understand the meaning and significance of the indigenous patterns and colours of their textile traditions. Connections were made to establish a possible working relationship for the project during my next visit.

I also made contact with Veronica Schobert of the textile department at the University of Buenos Aires, and I hope to meet with her to discuss this project and future collaborations on my next visit in April 2016.

Part of the project was to work with the children of Ysgol yr Hendre in Trelew on a textile tapestry to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Welsh arriving in Patagonia. The workshops took place at the school, with children from years 3, 4 ,5 and 6. Working with printmaking and drawing on images and symbols, the ideas were based on the life of the river Camwy and the original map of the farm plots as given to the first Welsh settlers. The children added their images onto textiles, developing their skills in sewing and making. They will continue to develop their ideas until my next visit to the school in April. I have sent materials and an embellishing machine over to the school in Trelew that will allow them to explore the medium further in the meantime.

My personal brief for the project was to visit and draw the Welsh chapels of Patagonia. On this visit I was able to see and draw all fourteen in the Chubut Valley and will visit the remaining two in Trevelin in the Andes on my next trip in April. I look forward to my return and the continuation of this project.

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