Historias del Iberá

Artesanas del alma: Johana

Johana stays silent. She is one of those people that can talk with her eyes. She approaches us slowly, analyzing the situation that unfolds in front of her. She comes out of the house a few meters from where we are sitting and talking to Angela, her mother. I understand by the way in which she moves that she is not used to seeing strange people in her house. I wonder how many interactions with strangers she has ever had. In spite of her shyness, she smiles. I return the gesture and get up from my chair in order to greet her. We give each other a double kiss. In Corrientes the kisses are double, one on each cheek.

Leonor sets the rhythm of the interaction. The trust among them is the key factor that makes our encounter unfold in harmony. Johana is the first of Angela’s daughters to come out of the house. Angela tells us that she is the eldest still living with her. We ask her how old she is. I don’t know why we insist on age. She repeats that she is not sure, but that probably around 27. Johana witnesses the conversation with a smile. Ángela tells us that Johana was born when they were still living on the island, away from people like us and calendars. My eyes go toward Johana’s. She still stares to the ground. She is wearing a red spotless sweater, a long skirt and a pair of sandals. The white flaps of her shirt’s collar stick out of her sweater. She is also wearing a ponytail.

In spite of Leonor’s and Angela’s insistence, Johana doesn’t go to the workshop. But that doesn’t mean that she is not a pure craftswoman. Her mother asks her to show us the piece she is working on. I can see the radiance in her face. She is proud of herself. She runs away like she was a child going to play. Then, I think about ages. They should be relative. There are moments in which we are our age, and others when we are the one our actions denote. At that precise moment Johana is 7, 8, 9, does it matter? She speeds through the yard and disappears between the trees. When she comes back, she brings her art. It is a breadbasket. She gives it to me without saying any words. It is unfinished. I hold it with my hands and analyze it. I can’t seem to understand how she does it. It is without a doubt, an art, an ancestral talent that impresses me. I ask her to show me how she sews the espartillo. I watch her with admiration while she does it with an innate naturalness.

Johana says a few words. While she speaks I watch her hands moving. Her sisters join us quietly. We gather in a circle around the working table. In the air I can feel a particular warmth, the one that appears when everything is ok.