Saturday, 22 May 2010


It’s so interesting when two seemingly unrelated worlds suddenly collide. The other night, I was happily listening to Lecture 4 of the Massey Lectures, this year by esteemed Canadian ethnobotanist and anthropologist Wade Davis and about whom I could write for pages and pages, well, maybe not, but still he is fantastic. The lecture was about spirituality and the earth and how the earth is a metaphor for that spirituality. It was fascinating listening and I was happily knitting.

Usually when listening to these lectures I have been spinning, which would have made the coincidence I am about to speak of even more amazing, but this night I was knitting socks. Anyway, Wade Davis began speaking of his first introduction to the Incan spirituality of Peru. His introduction occurred in the town of Chinchero, outside of Cuzco. I paused the recording in surprise and thought for a moment. I checked some of my books and magazines and yes, he said, “Chinchero” and yes, that is the town in which Abby Franquemont was raised by her anthropologist parents studying textiles. Abby Franquemont is another fascinating personality all on her own. Author of Abby’s Yarns, a blog on textiles, and author of a very, very good book on spindling, Respect the Spindle, published by Interweave Press, computer geek extraordinaire, and all round interesting person (as far as I can tell, not having met her). I can’t list all her accomplishments as I am not her personal biographer, but let’s say that there are many. She has written evocatively about her time growing up in Peru.

Abby has mentioned several times a woman by the name of Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez who is a cultural hero in her own way. She founded the Cuzco Textile Museum and encouraged the handwork that has been traditionally carried out in her region,handwork that was increasingly at risk due to the encroachment of “modern” life.

Well, back to the story… I pressed play and listened some more and I heard Davis say, “with my good friend Nilda Callañaupa” and I almost fell over. If only I had been spinning it would have been perfect!

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