Purheni*

During one of my visits to the city of Morelia Mexico, we visited a museum in which in one of the rooms a very beautiful and old (year 1555) image of Christ was being exhibited. The information card said:

Material: Pasta de Cana de Maiz (Corn stem paste)

I became fascinated by this and spent the rest of my vacation traveling from town to town trying to find out who could tell me more about this ancient technique; which was created by the ‘Purepechas’ ( local Indians ) 450 years ago. I wanted to learn more about this technique and how it results into such a resistant natural material. One thing lead to another and at the end of the trip we left Mexico with a project idea to support a small community of artisans who worked on the rescue of this forgotten material technique.

The main goal of the project was to bring new life to the ancient "pasta de caña de maiz technique" in order to be reused and re-integrated in the production of maize goods as a new handcrafted product that would contribute to fulfil the elementary needs of the community.

In this project we worked together withVera Winthagen and Liesbeth Fit and the community for one year; we travelled to Mexico and organized workshops with them to learn from each other, the technique and its meaning.

For a project like this to have a sustainable impact in rural communities; a sustained long-term program had to be implemented that would not respond to political interests or where official terms would be required. We were in the wrong timing to carry out this project in Mexico. I learned that it doesn’t matter how passionate my (social) design drive is, I have to recognize when it is the right time to step back and wait for when the right opportunity arises.

*Purheni means ‘being Purepecha”, Purepecha means being direct descendent from the indigenous people of Michoacán Mexico.

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Purepecha's gods images (XVI & XVII century) made with corn stem paste
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Sculpture in process
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Materials used in the technique
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Some proposals for the new product line
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Exploring new ways to use the technique
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The Workshop in Michoacán Mexico
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Carmen the leader of the workshop with her students
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Workshop
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Relief made with the paste
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Getting the raw material
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Carmen preparing the paste binder with cactus