Mapuche (Indigenous Chilean) artist Seba Calfuqueo has created the video art piece Tray Tray Ko. The video shows them performing a performance centred on the Mapuche wisdom and worldview around trayenko, or waterfalls. For the Mapuche, the trayenko are vital and sacred spaces whose flow of water snakes through the forest to give life to all, including lawen (medicinal herbs) that are essential to human life. 

In the performance, Calfuqueo is dressed in cobalt blue and carries a long fabric through the forest, similar to their dress. This act visually shows just how far the influence of water from the trayenko goes. At the end of the performance, after walking through a significant length of the jungle carrying the fabric, Calfuqueo drops their body into the river and enters a waterfall, signifying their and humanity’s connection to the circle of life. The performance becomes a symbol of Mapuche philosophy on humanity’s connection to nature; one that calls for a life spent nourishing and maintaining the Earth before eventually dying and being buried in it. This makes the piece a powerful call to action to conserve the trayenko, forests and nature, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Life on Land, Life Below Water and Clean Water and Sanitation.

Still from Tray Tray Ko by Seba Calfuqueo. Image courtesy of Seba Calfuqueo’s website.

Chile is home to two thirds of the glaciers in Latin America, however water quality and quantity is becoming a bigger problem by the day. The Nature Conservancy has estimated that Santiago, Chile’s capital city, is likely to lose 40 percent of its water balance by 2070 should urgent actions not be taken today. One of the key driving factors behind the loss of Chile’s water bodies, including its waterfalls, is the climate change-induced loss of the Maipo watershed, a water basin which provides 80 percent of the nation’s freshwater supply.

Therefore, Calfuqueo’s Tray Tray Ko serves as a reminder of the urgent need to protect Chile’s (and also the world’s) natural water sources since, as Calfuqueo’s blue fabric had demonstrated, so much life depends on their existence. One initiative that is directed at tackling the issue is the Santiago Water Fund. Held by The Nature Conservancy and HSBC, the fund aims to finance infrastructure that preserves wetlands and native vegetation in the Maipo watershed.

Still from Tray Tray Ko by Seba Calfuqueo. Image courtesy of Seba Calfuqueo’s website.

Seba Calfuqueo’s Tray Tray Ko is the visualization of Mapuche guidance for people in interacting with nature. In today’s world, rife with climate change, environmental disasters and widespread economic disparity, it may seem naïve to ask people to spend their lives caring for nature. Yet, with the simple gestures in Tray Tray Ko, embodied by the artist who walks through a forest, people can understand that they, too, can make a difference, no matter how small of a gesture they make, to help save the environment.

Still from Tray Tray Ko by Seba Calfuqueo. Image courtesy of Seba Calfuqueo’s website.

Find out more about Seba Calfuqueo’s Tray Tray Ko and their other pieces by checking their Instagram on @sebacalfuqueo

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