Filete porteño in Buenos Aires, a traditional painting technique

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Inscribed in 2015 (10.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Diego Aqruimbau, 2014

Filete porteño from Buenos Aires is a traditional painting technique used for ornamental design that combines brilliant colours with specific lettering styles. It can be seen as a form of decoration on urban buses and trucks and is also used for store signage and increasingly, home decoration. Images used relate back to the city’s heritage incorporating social and religious elements, acting as a form of collective memory. Popular designs include icons representing saints, admired politicians, music and sports idols. Sayings and proverbs are sometimes also incorporated in the designs. The technique begins with a drawing, which is then transferred to a support. Synthetic paint, coloured varnish and special longhaired brushes are then used to complete the work. Filete craftsmen transmit this technique to anyone who wants to learn it. Formal education is not required to develop the skills needed, which represents an opportunity for some young people in the community who are at risk of social exclusion. In the last few decades, a new generation of craftswomen have participated in Filete workshops and the practice in general, producing a new aesthetic for the artform.

Filete worktable with some tools: different kind of paintbrushes, paint colours, chalk, 'muñeca' (device made of cloth with smashed chalk in it) and two signs in progress
Close caption to special filete paintbrushes: 'bandas' (4 to 6 cm long hair with no handle) and paintbrushes for letters, all made of cow ears' hair
'Espúlvero': punched paper through which the 'muñeca' is rubbed in order to copy the drawing to the painting surface
Painting a store window: rubbing the 'muñeca' through the 'espúlvero' to pass the drawing onto the glass
Painting a store window: the painting starts with the plain colours
Painting a store window: after the plain colours are done, the 'yapán' (coloured varnish) is added, in order to give volume to the painting
Painting a store window: the technique of filete painting requires the use of the little finger as a support and guide to the hand that holds the paintbrush
Painting a store window: after the 'yapán', light is added to complete the illusion of volume
Painting a store window: some of the filete classic ornaments are present - acanthus leaves, spirals, buttons and flowers, painted in vibrant colours
Painting a store window: finished work that includes its author signature