Home Art Mate Burilado: The Legacy of Pre-Inca Era and Peruvian Heritage

Mate Burilado: The Legacy of Pre-Inca Era and Peruvian Heritage

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Mate Burilado

It’s well known that our ancestors used visual art as a principal way to capture their behaviors, customs and oral traditions in order to preserve them for future generations while starting to create their own legacy.

In Peru, people began to immortalize their traditions in different ways thousands of years ago, but in this article we are going to emphasize in one of them: the “Peruvian Gourd Art”in Spanish known as “Mate Burilado Peruano” which is a handcraft technique that consists in represent Peruvian stories (communal or personal ones) in gourds.

The storytelling of ancients Mate Burilados Peruanos not only carry handcrafted designs, but also the inheritance that our ancestors left us. On them you can understand different stories ranging from cultural events of pre-inca era such as celebrations, folklore, myths and tragedies of their everyday life.

Before start to create a Mate Burilado, the gourd must be skinned, cleaned and dried, after that crafters can create the three-dimensional design using the buril, which is a special tool created by Peruvians.

It is common to find miniature drawings on Mates Burilados, which can only be made out with magnifying glasses. The technique involves etching fine lines into the gourd with a scalpel, a special tool like the buril we mention previously.

A Part of Peruvian History: An Encounter with Our Ancestors
This technique has been practiced for more than 4,000 years. The oldest gourd art date back 3,500 years and were found by the American archaeologist Junius Bird in the Huaca Prieta temple, La Libertad located on Peru’s north coast.

Peruvian cultures as Chimú and Mochica made Gourds with handcrafted geometric designs of fishes and different kind of birds. In Huanta, which is one of the places of greatest production of Peruvian Gourd Art, artisans generally create drawings that represent active scenes of their farming life.

About the Principal Tool: The Buril

As we mention, the buril is the principal tool that artisans use to create the designs that the gourds are going to have. It is made of quinual (queñua)wood, a stick of it is attached with a steel nail with a triangular shape, the tip of the nail can be thin or thick, depending of the design the artisan is going to made.

New Era, New Techniques?

Over the years, crafters started to incorporate new techniques and tools at their Mates Burilados apart from the buril that we mention previously, An actual well known one is the “quemado” or a burning technique which main use is to incorporate varying shades of brown and black to the art that artisans are making with “tizón” (burned wood) of quinual or eucalyptus tree.

Many crafters started using modern tools in order to make gourd arts, the incorporation of blowtorch in the process of creation of mates burilados is an example of it, although it is generating controversy because of the outrage it causes to original way to make them.

There is another process that they may use in some gourds, called “fondo negro“, whichliteral translation to English is “black background”. Artisans main purpose by using this process is to create a dark color background on the carved gourds. The process starts by smearing the gourd with oil and fat, after it they cover the oil with “ichu” (kind of straw) ash, then the mate must be washed and let dry.

Some gourds distinguish from others because of their colors, painted with temperas, and outlined with white paint, this type of mates are called “primavera”, which literal translation to English is spring ones.

Piece of Peru

As we mention Gourd Arts are an important part of Peruvian culture, so it turns Mates Burilados not only into perfect gifts and souvenirs when traveling to this beautiful country, but also offers a new perspective to understanding the story designed in the gourd itself.

Nowadays there are several companies and stores that produces large amounts of gourds in a industrialized way offering low prices, stealing artisans and crafters not only buyers, but also their tradition when people start to get used to buy replicas that are not made in a traditional way. So, when thinking to buy a gourd art, do it in stores that help artisans and give contributions to the crafters, Tinkuy is one of them.