Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Linda Cortright ~ The Global Pasture at GALA 2010

Linda Cortright's images from her Global Pasture presentation at GALA 2010 are shared at the bottom of this post with permission. We gratefully thank Cortright for her informative presentations, her gift of storytelling, and her beautiful images.

Linda on a sheep rescue in New Zealand
Some people are natural storytellers, and Linda Cortright, global traveler and editor of Wild Fibers Magazine, is nothing short of extraordinary. She has led, from what I could garner from her presentations at GALA 2010, an exceptionally unique life among fascinating peoples in the far reaches of the universe.

Photographing the sheep rescue
It is impossible to recapture the gift she possesses as she spins her stories; she has traveled to places unknown to many of us. Yet she captures the hearts and souls of the people she meets and we are her beneficiaries. At the onset, I wish to thank Linda for sharing her incredible photographs; they are an amazing gift and deconstruct conventional notions of global farming. Months have passed since GALA 2010 and only recently I found this draft which I thought had been deleted; hence this late posting.

200 vicunas were airlifted into Ecudor to grow an economy and reintroduce them to the area. But the area volcano, Throat of Fire, spews ash to Timbarazo and produces an instinctive behavior that does not allow the animals to reproduce. So, the learned lesson is to place animals in an indigenous habitat. The Peruvian government gifted these people with another 89 vicunas, a considerable gift, but the native habitat has still not enabled reproduction nor fiber harvest.

Then, Linda said she saw a native alpaca herd with a shepherd and she stopped to visit them.  Interestingly, in this community of alpacas, the shepherds rotate weekly and in their collective environment they share responsibility for herding and raising their combined flocks. In America, we live in a capitalist culture and are programmed to function and live independently; however, this collective group shows us an alternative and perhaps a better way. The women of this village wear heels and dresses to herd the alpacas.

Note the cooked Guinea Pig on the table
In another village and a recently new community of indigenous people in Ecudor, Cortright met a young mother with child. That day a chef came from another place to teach the villagers how to cook guinea pig. Cortright became the foreign guinea pig for the Ecudorian Julia Child. The guinea pig is on the table and the people were so excited because the village had learned to prepare guinea pigs for tourists. Cortright mentioned that wherever she travels, people in indigineous cultures see her first and foremost as an American, so she accommodates the people and has eaten some amazing things.

Otavalo and the Saturday market is a big fiber destination in Ecudor, and weaving dominates the animal scene more. Cortright goes to peek in on a weaver, Maria, who lives 40 minutes by bus from Otavalo. Everyday, Maria takes her weavings on her back and goes to the daily market. Her husband has made both of her looms. They wake at 4 AM and live in one small room with 7 children in a bed next to her two looms. Her oldest son is in college but comes home to help his mother with her business. Some children create a different lifestyle from their parents.  Contrary to what we consider market scenes, when you get to speak with someone like Maria, you get to see and hear what this particular piece of created fiber means to them. You make a purchase and are invited to dinner.

Saturday at the Animal Market in Otavalo (see pictures in link)
Every Saturday in Otavalo is the animal market, and Cortwright said it is quite an experience. Here’s the quick lesson on fiber animals in South America. Wool is becoming a scarce product and is produced in areas where sheep are becoming a meat market. Only one remaining mill exists and that is because they get the fiber from the slaughterhouse. People are now buying acrylic. The animals create horrible noises from being pulled, shoved, hit, dragged. Without being judgmental, Cortright notes that this is how they survive and eat, but she couldn’t handle the cacophony and left, confronted by the reality of a third-world culture.

The regular market, the food market, was a welcomed relief, but her photographer was picpocketed, likely by the two women. Cortright has the photo in her office, and someone who a year later visited her saw the photo and said, “The pickpocketers from Otovallo.”

Cortright  purchased sheep shears in Otovalo for someone in New Zealand. Lake Tekapo, NZ, a rustler’s paradise, David Whiteman is a sheep farmer who raises 25,000 sheep. John raises merino sheep. When they bring the sheep down from the mountain, it takes two days and they herd by helicopter. In 2001 there was a band of renegade sheep who eluded muster; David was responsible to clip this band. When they were clipped, they had trouble walking because they lost 1/3 of their of their body weight. Later, they found a small band of remaining renegade sheep and Cortright was invited to attend the muster in the helicopter. When you lease land from the Crown, you must establish certain environmental protocols like opposum control.

To capture the four sheep, the guy jumps down on the sheep, lands, bear hugs the sheep, captures it and flies it via helicopter to safety. 2009 was the International Year of Fiber and was addressing the sustainability of the fiber industry, for whom polar fleece is not your friend. The 4 sheep are put into David’s truck, rescued, and says, “They’re not my sheep.” Eventually, the sheep are returned to their owners.

The mission of Wild Fibers is to find global fibers. Cortwright raises cashmere goats. Cortright fell in love with cashmere goats when a friend went to visit the Himilayans. She saw photos and years later determined to raise them. One of the things that makes cashmere goats’ fiber so very fine is that they live on very sparse vegetation. Everyone exists at one level of the food chain; either you own the animals, or you harvest the fibers and process them, or you purchase the end product.

Linda’s last story was a favorite llama story. For the International Fiber Year, the world’s longest fiber scarf was made. To make an impression in New York, Linda asked Lars to bring a llama to Manhatten. And he did. It was Gail and Lars who inspired her, and Gail who inspired her to “keep going on.

Gail's memory lives on with all of us in many ways. She was honored posthumously at GALA 2010 with the naming of the fiber room in her memory. The ladies of the fiber room also weaved and felted a rug that represented the many facets of Gail's life among her friends in the camelid community. The magic carpet was auctioned at the Saturday evening dinner and then given to Lars. Her friends and family miss her, but our community continues to honor her work, her lasting legacy.

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1 comment:

  1. I would like to include it in my garden in some way, I love gardens that are all green, where texture, shape of leaf and different shades of green make the beauty, and I think I will need to create some hedge boundaries, walls or screens. sheep shears