Object 1: Family mate set

May 28, 2021


The object shown is my family’s mate set, mate being a hot beverage indigenous to the River Plate region. The process of preparing and sharing mate is often referred to as a ritual, due to its specificity and set of rules, as well as social importance. The knowledge of preparation is known generally by Ríoplatenses (people from the River Plate region), and is not well known outside of the area.

This ritual originated with the Guaraní people in South America1 and remained in the region. Due to the ritual’s specificity, it is uncommon for a non-ríoplatense to know the terminology that comes along with it, especially without speaking Spanish or Portuguese, such as cebador or bombilla. Without belonging to the linguistic and cultural group, the knower cannot fully understand the tradition. Additionally, there is a traditional way of serving and sharing mate with a group, only understood by locals. Thus, this object contributes to the exhibition by showing that some knowledge is limited to particular communities, often constrained by linguistic and cultural barriers.

However, within ríoplatenses, most people are not familiar with mate’s Guaraní legendary origins, which say that the plant was a gift from the gods2. Even within a particular community of knowers (those who are familiar with the ritual), there are aspects of knowledge that belong to a smaller sub-group (Guaraní people). This object also brings up the question of who the tradition truly belongs to, as mate originated with the Guaraní but was assimilated into European communities and is practiced by both. This object contributes to the exhibition by showing that knowledge can be constrained by issues related to cultural and linguistic knowledge, but also by historical currents, such as through the colonial relationships between native Guaraní people and European colonisers.

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