This month I traveled to the town of Sarhua and Pampa Cangallo on assignment for Pension 65, a social program of the government for elderly living in extreme poverty. Besides the financial assistance they provide, the program is working to give recognition to ancestral traditions and knowledge.
Sarhua and Pampa Cangallo (located in the Morochucos area) are well known for their strong traditions such as dancing, singing and weaving. Sarhua is also famous for its tablas, wooden planks decorated with drawings representing life milestones. Originally they were given almost blank as gifts to newlyweds, placed into the rafters of the roof and as time passed, new drawings were added. Not many families follow this tradition anymore but the tablas de Sarhua are still made as an art form. Pampa Cangallo and surrounding areas have the tradition of the morochucos, skilled horsemen who have been dubbed the “cowboys of the Andes”.
I am back home in Lima after spending 5 amazing days working in two small towns in the Ayacucho region of the Peruvian Andes. One of these towns was Sarhua, where this photo was taken, a place known for keeping its traditions very much alive.
I’ve been working on a documentary project about the residents of the old Hacienda San Agustin, in Callao, just behind the airport. This community will disappear very soon, as the land will be turned into the airport’s second runway. I recently met Mrs. Digna, or Mama Digna as her neighbors call her.
I am back from the 64th Missouri Photo Workshop that took place in Troy, Missouri. During the weeklong workshop each participant develops a documentary photo essay about a person from the community. I had the privilege of meeting Olive, a 96-year-old piano teacher, who allowed me to spend time with her for a few days. She thought of herself as someone living a “very ordinary life”. I disagree. Through our conversations I realized she has a very unique perspective on life – a perspective only someone who has lived fully for 96 years could have.
77 Years of Beautiful Music
Olive Haffner taught her first piano lesson when she was 19 and hasn’t stopped since. That was 77 years ago. “Teaching piano is my big love,” she says.
Every June Olive organizes a piano recital, which has been performed uninterrupted by three generations of students, the children of the children of her first students.
She loves to play classics, but her hands are not as agile as they were. She stopped driving two years ago and needs help from her son and friends to get around town. But that doesn’t matter. Olive teaches Monday through Thursday.
“When you get to my age you are ready. I am looking forward to it. It is going to be glorious. All my siblings are up there, my son, my folks. I am ready to go.”