BITS ‘N’ PIECES
On the tiny Peruvian island of Taquile, a man’s worth isn’t measured in his ability to hunt or fish, but in his ability to knit.
Taquile is famous for its textiles and clothing, and while women weave and tend to the sheep that provide the wool, men are the ones who exclusively produce the island’s knitted hats. The chullos are seen as culturally significant, playing a key role in the island’s social structure and allowing men to show their creativity while also displaying their marital status, dreams and aspirations – some men even use it to show their mood. It’s a tradition that islanders are working hard to preserve.
The tradition has been around for the better part of 500 years, with roots in the ancient civilisations of the Inca, Pukara and Colla peoples. The Inca in particular, used their headdresses in a similar way to the Taquilean chullo, to display the specific insignia of their particular province. The elders of the island tell of the chullo design arriving with the Spanish conquest in 1535.
Taquilean boys are taught to knit from the age of five or six, with the skill passed down from one male to the next. The first chullo a boy knits is white, though he’ll later use sheep wool dyed with locally sourced plants and minerals, and the method is refined until he’s able to knit a hat that is tight and neat. It’s a painstakingly slow process – even the most experienced knitters on the island need the better part of a month to make a chullo due to the intricate patterns and specific iconography reflecting agricultural, seasonal and familial totems.
The chullos also play a key role in pairing young couples. Men are chosen by their mates based on their ability to successfully knit a chullo with tiny wire-thin needles.
According to Alejandro, the sign of good partner is one who can make a pin-tight chullo – one knitted so well that it is able to hold water over large distances when turned upside down. Would-be fathers-in-law often test the chullos of their daughters’ potential husbands in this way.
You can’t help but marvel at its beauty. This female mosquito, with its fabulous furry legs and iridescent shimmer, is a total stunner.
It’s one of the Sabethes species found in central and South America.
What a shame this particular specimen also happens to be an important carrier of tropical disease.
The picture was taken by Gil Wizen from Ontario, Canada. His work is highly commended in this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
Gil is an entomologist by training, so he really understands his subjects. And to get this kind of shot requires a lot of planning, patience - and even some pain.
He describes Sabethes mosquitoes as being extremely skittish and difficult to photograph well, especially in the constant heat and humidity of the Amazon rainforest, where this picture was taken.