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Bahama Journal: Out Island Artists Promised Support
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Posted by:Aug 21st 2002, 02:53:26 pm
KimberlyRead an interesting article this morning:

Local Artisans Promised Support

The next time you walk along the beach and see a
piece of broken bottle, all washed up and made
smooth from the water and sand beating against it,
just think that someone right here in The Bahamas
uses it as raw material to make attractive jewelry.

And even more Bahamians are utilizing fish scales
and conch shells to carve out delightful, unique and
authentically Bahamian products that are fetching
top dollar on the market.

The Ministry of Tourism invited several artisans from
New Providence and the Family Islands to display
their goods at British Colonial Hilton on Monday.

The event, a pre-cursor to the Ministry's annual
Authentically Bahamian Trade Show that is held in
December, was designed to showcase the
availability of craft and souvenir items that are made
in The Bahamas.

In addition, the display served to enhance creativity
and the quality of local products and encourage

After visiting the various booths with attractive
displays, Minister of Trade and Industry, Leslie
Miller said he was amazed at what Bahamians can

He encouraged them to continue to authenticate
their products so that they can earn more of the
$150 million dollars that visitors spend on souvenir
and handicraft items when they come to The

Ninety percent of the products sold in the various
straw markets and souvenir shops in The Bahamas
are imported, said the Minister.

"That has to stop," he said. "I am convinced beyond
the shadow of a doubt, that given the opportunity
and the commitment from The Bahamas
Government to assist artisans from any island in
our country, we could produce for all of the tourists
that visit our country on an annual basis," he added.

Importing raw materials duty-free, small loans at 8
percent interest rate and getting one of the
major buildings in the Industrial Park on Soldier
ready for occupation by artisans at "little or no rent"
are some of the initiatives that the Trade Minister
said will contribute handsomely to increased
production of home made souvenirs.

Minister Miller said that a team recently returned
from Cuba, and will soon travel to Mexico and the
Dominican Republic to investigate how artisans in
these neighbouring countries use their local products
to make souvenir products, and apply it to The
Bahamian context.

The new government will "resurrect" the once
"thriving" conch shell jewellery programme started
under the Taiwanese government at the Bahamas
Technical and Vocational Institute, but which has
since been discontinued, he said.

The minister also encouraged all artisans to form an
association so they could speak as one voice and
have regular meetings with his ministry.

One of the plans is to ensure that the Ministry of
Trade and Industry secures more hotels and Bay
Street merchants to carry local products, since this
is one of the major challenges.

Speaking on behalf of Tourism Minister Obie
Wilchcombe, his Parliamentary Secretary Agatha
Marcelle pleaded with the audience to hold the
government accountable in ensuring that their
products are available to the world.

"We have nothing to be afraid of. Bahamians are
good at what we do. We are as good as anybody
else and better than most," Ms. Marcelle said.

She said that Bahamians do not realize how close
we are to being "a model of excellence" in everything
we do, encouraging artisans to keep focused.

She said many fail and lose heart, primarily because
they are under-capitalized and under-funded.

"If you go to an institution asking for $100,000 and
they are only offering you $50,000, then you fail
before you start," she said. "When you are a
success, the Bahamas is a success."

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