Survival mode

Where have all the people gone?

by Kimberley Cummins

Pelican Craft Village is the place where arts and craft go to die.

This was the cry of some of the artisans yesterday morning who ply their trade there.

It was the final day of the Barbados Arts and Craft Experience which began in June and which was held on five occasions. Despite the initiation of Barbados Investment Development Corporation, the artisans at Pelican, the Ministry of Tourism and the Intimate Hotels Group when the Barbados TODAY visited the area it was deserted.

Outspoken jewellery maker, Undine Rouse, said she could not put her finger on why people do not go to the village but she knew something was wrong.

“You try to get them here and the tourists walk on the other side of the street… I just don’t know and it is a good project because at the end of the day you would know how to make a piece a jewellery. I don’t know what it is – getting the people. I really don’t know what it is to put your hand right on it but we do everything humanly possible to make it work but there is something about Pelican.

“Pelican has no motivation in it. It looks like an old people home. I don’t know what else could be done for Pelican, the Government does everything they could possibly do to push this place but yet it still ain’t happening. I feel it is better to take it away from Pelican and put it somewhere else; restructure it and make a more tourist attraction,” she said.

Chief Tourism Development Officer in the Ministry of Tourism, Jacqueline Pollard, said the pilot project was designed to give the visitors and also locals the experience of making their own local arts and craft. Something they could say ‘I have made this’ rather than just buying something off the shelf.

In the pilot, visitors were encouraged to book and pay for the craft which they wished to learn to make, be it jewellery making, basketry, pottery or painting. At the end of the demonstration the participants would take whatever it was they created.

“We are hoping that after a bit of exposure more visitors and locals would be interested and participate and give the artisans additional revenue. It is a twofold – vendors and artisans would be able to increase their revenue, impart their teaching skills and also the participants would have the experience of making their local arts and craft.

“It has worked reasonable well. Remember it is a pilot project, but there is room for improvement and we are hoping that when we come again in the winter season it will be bigger and better,” she said and moreover admitted that the day was “slow”.

Former President of the Arts Council, Neville Legall, who is also a painter, said he did not have any bookings but noted that he knew of one artisan who registered one booking for the day.

“The idea was put to me about the pilot of the project in terms of not only tourist but locals and getting them involved in the Barbadian society,” he said. “I felt it was a good idea because it would have brought people to the artistes, to the workshops and so on. It meant that a person coming to our workshops while they are demonstrating they would get the experience of completing a small piece of work which they would take home.

“That almost meant that, that person could become our clients because they might be so inspired by what we do, they might figure they want a painting by Legall or Fielding Babb or one of the other persons in the experience. So we felt it was a good idea and beneficial to the society and also since the tourists would be paying for the experience it meant they are spending money they necessarily would not have spent.

“I felt it was worthwhile; now you come out here and it is slow. I saw it advertise in the papers and on the radio but for some reason people are not booking. It was a good initiative and I wouldn’t say it wasn’t well executed, but it just didn’t get the response. Maybe lack of funding to do more advertising could have impacted.

“Pelican has been up and down especially this year it has been slow but sometimes in the gallery some weeks we have very good weeks and another two weeks it is slow. It all depends on the person who comes in and see something they want. My challenge is to the artistes to always make sure they have good work out there. Once you have good work someone will want to own it,” he said.

One artist, who preferred to be anonymous, said she was oblivious to any event occurring at the Village. She said she heard someone mention something about an activity which occurred in July but that she was shocked to learn that the press knew more about the project which was “supposed to benefit” the artisans than the artisans themselves.

One Response to Survival mode

  1. Tony Webster August 31, 2012 at 6:58 am

    These folks are highly-skilled artisans, giving wonderful expression through their various genres of art. What they offer is far superior to any plastic frivolity made in China / or Hong Kong, and gaudily proclaiming itself as a “sounverir of Barbados”. In addition to producing genuine souvenirs, they are really interesting folks to chat with, explaining what they do, and their life-journeys . True national treasures, left to moulder and wither away. Really, really sad! Is there not someone, somewhere in the vast expanses of the Civil Service, some minister with a conscience, who could arrange to place these guys somewhere on the tourists more well-beaten track, instead of this grave-yard? Maybe, at that subvention-supported Barbados Museum & Historical Society, or similar location? Quite simply, they need “trafic”, or they die.


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