What I Saw

16 Jun 2023

Gladys Peto

Mrs Peto does not only immortalise the beauty of Cypriot women in her book Malta and Cyprus, 1929, but she goes on to record their hard everyday lives. In short, the women are represented as the working force of the country; yet, the author is without self-conscious sexual bias as she expresses her respect for the working habits of all Cypriots:

“The peasants seem to me to be a particularly hard-working people, labouring both late and early, and often producing an apparently admirable crop from ground which may be both shallow and stony.”

Thus, Gladys Peto was a careful observer of the customs and manners of the country that hosted her. She diligently recorded what she saw and experienced and shared this knowledge with her readers by including in her text useful information on local handicrafts. These descriptions were evidently aimed at future tourists:

“You may buy the hand-woven and homegrown silk of Cyprus…they make it in the most alluring colours-biscuit striped with rose and blue, and the palest green striped with royal blue. It is splendid for frocks and for pyjamas. You may also get Cyprus alaja or linen…there is some pretty stuff known as “Cyprus muslin” which has some silk woven into it…. You may buy very attractive face-towels, woven with bands of bright colour. Such towels went to Wembley and were much admired. You may buy articles covered with a very attractive cross-stitch called “Paphos work” and magnificent curtains and quilts… there are also various kinds of Cyprus lace and embroidery including the delightful stitch that is said to be a descendant of Point Venise, and that other less attractive kind that is rather like Maltese lace…You may go on to the silversmith’s bazaar..the particular masterpiece, a set of finger-bowls, with the Cyprus lion at the bottom of each bowl, costs from six pounds to seven pounds ten for a set of six…and curiously shaped but quite useful spoons for a few shillings each…”

The 'What I Saw...' series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus) and the Active Citizens Fund.

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