People that time forgot: The thatch workers

Using silver thatch to make baskets, hats, fans, brooms and, of course, rope is quickly becoming a thing of the past. There was a time when making rope was an important part of the Cayman Islands’ economy.

Now only a few continue the tradition, mainly for demonstration, to show how it used to be done.

Shown in this photo, taken in the late ‘70s, are the hands of an unidentified lady in the district of Bodden Town toiling at her daily task of cutting thatch. They were working hands – hands that built up calluses and eventually became hard as dried leather. They were scarred and hardened with the evidence of countless bumps, bruises and cuts inflicted over the years. Perfumed hand creams and nail polish were simply unheard of to these hard-working ladies.

This photograph is from the book ‘The People Time Forgot’ by George Nowak, available at the National Museum. All proceeds from the sales of the book go toward museum projects.