Tek’le is from Shuapkho, the largest village in the Pshavi gorge. As the daughter of a well-known khevisberi,1 she is a wealth of local knowledge.
As tall and lean as she is straightforward, Tek’le spends most of her time with her cows and her books. She comes from a family of five sisters and a brother.
''Out of all of my sisters, I am the most strange. They were all very hard workers, and I always loved books.''
Most of her twenty-seven cows died several years ago when a sickness swept through, and her hopes are set high on replenishing the herd soon.
Tek’le reflects on her age: ''I am eighty-five years old. Eighty-five! That’s eighty-five years times twelve months a year. Think about that…! But you know, when I look out at the streets of my village it feels like I was a child yesterday. Just yesterday. This is our ts’utisopeli.''
1A "valley elder" in the northeastern highlands of Georgia. This term historically referred to a local elected leader, responsible for the political and military life of his community. In contrast, a dekanozi was the chozen head priest in charge of the shrines and spiritual life of his highland community. By the 19th century, as the dekanozi began taking on the responsibilities of the khevisberi, the two titles merged into one. Today this leader is responsible for tending to the local mountain shrines. In Khevi, Mtiuleti and Tusheti he is referred to as a dekanozi, whereas Pshavs and Khevsurs use the term khevisberi.