Wednesday, 24 July 2019

A Likely Story.


This is Evelyn Cheesman. She was a British entomologist, collector and traveller, who was the first female curator at London Zoo, and collected around 70,000 specimens for the Natural History Museum from across the South Pacific, during a lifetime of long solo expeditions, the last of which she made at the age of 73. If you want to read more about her - and really, at this point, how could you not? - here's a good place to start.

Anyway, in one of her many books about her adventures, 'Time Well Spent', she talks about the types of knowledge that indigenous people were prepared to accept from a foreigner and a woman, and that which they were not. To summarise, she says they were prepared to accept facts about things they'd never seen before - cameras, for instance - but not about things familiar to them.

"I am thinking now of the people on Malekula, New Hebrides, who did not know that a caterpillar changed into a butterfly. That new idea was too much to swallow from a stranger. One serious old man made a speech purporting to assure me that, even if this irregular sort of thing took place in my country, I need not expect it to occur on their island."

13 comments:

SylviaHolly said...

Welp. I think I've met some serious old men in my short days. The linked site also told me Charles Darwin was very excited to find a common octopus on his first voyage as a 22 year old; he wrote about the color-changing properties of the creature he found when science had known about it long before. Do your research, kids. :P

Tealin said...

Gosh. As the kids say, Life Goals. What an amazing lady.

Anonymous said...

"She once got so caught up in the low-hanging webs of the Nephila spider on Gorgona Island, she had to spend several hours freeing herself with a nail file. "

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this. What an inspirational woman, who clearly did spend her time very well indeed.

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