Object 3: Kultrung (mapuche drum)

May 28, 2021


The object shown is a kultrung, a drum from the Mapuche group from what is now Chile and Argentina. It is the most important instrument in Mapuche culture, and is used only by machi (shaman) in religious, cultural and healing rituals. The drawings on the drum symbolise the Mapuche view of the cosmos and the land, and each machi designs the drum according to the knowledge given to them by Ngu╠łnechen, the most important deity in present-day Mapuche religion and culture.

The knowledge of how to design and use of the kultrung is not common outside of the Mapuche group, but even within it, it is also restricted. Its design and use is exclusive to the machi, as it is believed to be imbued with their specific spirit and knowledge. Unlike the mate set, which is a very commonly used cultural object within the community of ríoplatenses, the knowledge of how to use and create a kultrung is exclusive to a sub-section of the Mapuche group. Thus, this object contributes to the exhibition by demonstrating that some knowledge is closed off to very specific communities of knowers, because of its active limitation to those groups.

An interesting aspect of the kultrung is that its decoration and use is intrinsically linked with the knowledge system of the Mapuche. The land (mapu) is central to Mapuche life and beliefs, which is represented through the design of the kultrung; for example, the circular shape represents the world, while the cross on its surface shows the four spaces into which the Mapuche believe the world to be divided, with the machi at the center communicating with spirits in all four spaces. This is not the case for many cultures, and thus those who are brought up outside of the Mapuche culture, while possibly understanding the use of the kultrung on the surface, will not have the deeper knowledge of the worldview that it stems from. This object shows, then, that knowledge of worldviews specifically is often much more difficult to communicate, and therefore is relegated to particular communities of knowers.

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