In Dominica I often hear artisans lament that they struggle to compete with cut-price, lower quality, mass produced imported items, and that these days it’s almost impossible for them to make a living solely from their craft. But this issue is not unique to Dominica, nor is it a recent occurrence.
Since the start of the industrial revolution and mass consumerism, skilled craftsmanship has been rendered almost obsolete with the markets flooded by cheaper, machine-produced items. Globally craftspeople and support for arts and crafts in general have been on the decline and the current economic climate and lack of appreciation for original art and craft, has compounded the situation.
However, in recent times, there seems to be stirrings of a sector revival, and if so, Dominica is ahead of the game when it comes to authentic art and craft. It is inextricably rooted in our history and culture and all we have to do is sustain, improve and market what we have already been doing for many, many years. Especially in view of the size of the island and its population, Dominica can boast a large percentage of diverse, versatile and talented artisans and a rich heritage of skilled craftspeople.
The natural environment is often cited as the major source of inspiration to both local and visiting artisans and the land too is a source of an impressive array of raw materials which can be utilised sustainably: all parts of the coconut tree, variety of wood (including driftwood), banana leaf, flowers, grass, larouma reed, fougÃ©re (tree fern), shells, sand, sea glass, calabash, seeds, river rocks, natural dyes and bamboo, to name a few.
Over the last two years I have seen increased interest and recognition of the potential of this sector; ministersâ€™ talk of the importance of heritage and cultural tourism and promises of more help for arts and crafts producers have been made.
This year, initiatives in this sector have included; the formation of Dominica Arts and Crafts Producers Association (DACPA), the Cultural Division Coconut Art & Craft Exhibition at the Old Mill Cultural Centre, held as part of the Independence Celebrations, the opening of Tiffanyâ€™s and Talipot art galleries and the Alliance FranÃ§aise Christmas Market held on 10th to11th December. Credit must also go to Ross University who for several years have been hosting an annual arts and craft fair in November at their campus grounds in Picard, showcasing the work of local artisans. Regionally, I am also excited to hear about the soon to launch Arc Magazine, a quarterly Caribbean Art and Culture Print and E-Magazine due to be published out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines by artists, Nadia Huggins and Holly Bynoe
I personally believe that if we are serious about wanting to preserve, enhance and create a sustainable arts and crafts sector, more can be done by government. For instance the removal of all duties and taxes on the importation of already expensive arts and crafts material and tools will go a long way to helping producers compete on price and to show the governmentâ€™s real commitment to the sector. But regardless of what governments or the OECS do or donâ€™t do, we can help remedy the situation by simply sharing information about local artisans, exhibitions, craft fairs, galleries etc or choosing a local craft item for ourselves or for our next gift purchase.
So if you are doing your Christmas shopping in Dominica this year, consider making that extra special effort to hunt down a locally made art or craft item and when you see something you like, tell a friend or two.
Dominica Art Galleries
– Everybodyâ€™s Gallery, Hillsborough St, Roseau
– Old Mill Cultural Centre, River Estate, Canefield
– Talipot Gallery, Victoria St, Roseau
– The Art Asylum, Jimmit
– The Art Gallery, King George V St, Roseau
– Tiffanyâ€™s Art Gallery, River Estate, Canefield
A selection of stores selling local art and craft
– Abilities Unlimited (Workshop for the Blind), Federation Drive, Goodwill
– Albert Casimir, St Johnâ€™s Av, Pottersville and Bay Front
– Ambiance Nc, Castle St, Roseau
– Bay Front, Roseau
– Bionic Leather Craft, Kennedy Av, Roseau
– Cabrits National Park, Portsmouth
– Cocorico, Dame Eugenia Charles Blvd (Bay Front), Roseau
– Ego Boutique & Duty Free, Cnr Hillsborough St & Old St, Roseau
– Forever Young, Dame Eugenia Charles Blvd (Bay Front), Roseau
– Geneva Estate Craft Centre, Grand Bay
– Green Eye Production, Loubiere
– Iguana CafÃ©, Portsmouth
– Kalinago Barana AutÃ© (KBA) and the Kalinago territory
– Natural Talent store, Bay Street, Portsmouth
– Old Market, Roseau
– Papillote Wilderness Retreat, Trafalgar
– Riverside cafÃ©, La Plaine
– Shalom, Hillsborough St, Roseau also at the old market
– Shaniseâ€™s Craft Centre, Corner Hanover St & Hillsborough St, Roseau
– The Ruins, Old Market, Roseau
– Tourist eco sites e.g. Morne Bruce, Trafalgar Fall, Emerald Pool, Wotten Waven etc
Arts and Crafts Organisations in Dominica
– Dominica Arts and Crafts Producers Association (DACPA)
President – Francis Richards, E: [email protected]
– Visual Arts Society of Dominica (VASOD)
President – Irvin C Durand, E: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
– The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Export Development Unit (OECS-EDU) is gearing up to establish an OECS Design Network. The Dominica Design Network (DDN) is part of this.
Business Development Officer (OECS/EDU) – Mrs. Jennifer Julien-Laudat,
E: [email protected]
President (DDN) – Andy Manley, E: [email protected]
– Waitukubuli Kalinago Arts & Craft Association (WKACA)
President – Theresa Frederick, KBA Kalinago territory
– Cultural Division
Chief Cultural Officer – Raymond Lawrence, E: [email protected]