The population of Canamares in the Spanish province of Cuenca lingers at just below 600, but for five months each year, it transforms into a dreamscape of red and orange. Wicker, or mimbre in Spanish, grows in bamboo-like stalks from November until May.
Canamares is part of a wicker route that stretches for a just under 25 miles of undulating terrain near the River Escabas, deep ravines, gorges, and thickets of pines. It is the main producer of the region’s wicker, and while the area once was home to traditional basket-weavers, the industry has been in serious decline over recent years.
We found these exquisite photographs of wicker cultivation in Canamares in Offset’s rich collection of photography, and yearned to know more about the history of the forgotten basket makers. The dearth of information we were able to uncover speaks to the diminishing role of natural wicker, which takes more effort to maintain than the popular synthetic versions.
The wicker of Canamares harkens back to a time when artistry took precedence over convenience. Wicker is an ancient material, dating back to ancient Egypt. It was so precious, in fact, that the pharaoh Tutankhamun was buried with wicker furniture.
It was the ancient Romans who brought the plant to Spain in the 17th century, although it would take another two hundred years for it to United States, where it was very much in vogue for American fans of the British Victorian lifestyle.
The cultivation of wicker might be a dying art, but tours still exist in and around Canamares, where tourists can see the stalks set the land on fire. The history books might not remember the tradition of the Cuenca mimbre, but the photographs will ensure they’re not forgotten.
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