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Published: 10 November 2018

By Andy Ross

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The Awakening Valley

A recent rediscovery of a fascinating book, The Awakening Valley, has proved to be very interesting.

In the various bookcases in the studios and at home there are some intriguing finds. This book is a photographic collection of a particular valley, Otavalo, in Ecuador. It tells the story of the people who lived in this high-up-in-the-Andes place, and I say lived because the book was published by the University of Chicago in 1949. Many of the people in the pictures are no longer with us and life has changed, I am sure, in the area. That is one of the reasons books like this are important. The Wikipedia entry for the main town tells of mass produced articles in the market but this book has photographs when industry like that had not taken over from the handmade. Here we have pictures of people weaving, producing natural dyes, creating clothes and shawls on backstrap looms... All the things that no longer play such a major role in the daily lives of the people who live in the valley. It is fascinating to read and see how life used to be.

It was particularly good to read about and see how much of life in 1949 was dependent on manual labour. From making rush boats to creating tasty food, from weaving belts to building houses. Ploughing fields and gathering crops. A very different way of life to that we lead in the 21st Century. This has indeed been a Very Interesting Chance Rediscovery.