For those who don’t know me, St. Lucia is my home – an island in the Caribbean 14° N, a little country 14 miles wide and 27 miles long. Our history is one of colonialism – indigenous Amerindians – Caribs and Arawaks – having largely been wiped out by the invading Europeans; in our case we ended up being 7 times French and 7 times English. Today the population is largely of black African descent – great-great-great….granddaughters and grandsons of the slaves brought to these shores. This is mixed with a much smaller number of Indian (as in from India) descent and a handful of local and expat whites, Chinese, Syrian, Lebanese etc.
|St. Lucia is there on the right...that tiny dot...|
The area best known for indigenous or traditional crafts is the Quarter of Choiseul – the island’s limestone district marked by long narrow hills separated by steep plunging gullies. It is unique in the island: The famous twin peaks, Petit and Gros Piton constantly guard Choiseul’s northern borders and several secluded yellow sand beaches decorate the western shores. It is, for me, a beautiful place. I had the pleasure of working there 3 days a week during my time as the Crafts Development Officer for the government in the early ‘90s, and to this day, I love to be in Choiseul.
|Gros Piton seen from Catty Osman's Home, Morne Sion, Choiseul, St. Lucia|
So I am happy to be about to embark on some projects that will keep me, once again, in Choiseul 3-4 days of every week for a good number of weeks: These projects are concerned with stemming the decline of traditional crafts as an occupation…we’re seeking ways to make it attractive for the younger generation to take up these traditions as their livelihood and to make it a livelihood that is worth taking up – financially and socially. It’s not an easy ask.
You see, here is a history of hard work, patient manual labour, close connection of supplier and buyer…and unfortunately in recent times this last has been largely lost; the buyer and supplier are not making those connections and so the financial benefits dwindle while the hard work and patient manual labour remain, and this is not an attractive proposition to the future generations.
So we plan to be bridge-builders; introducing elements that relate to modern-day life and blending them with elements that keep the essence of the traditions to create a mix that feeds the modern needs of a new generation of crafters – designer-makers, by catching the eye of the buyer – even speaking to their hearts we hope. And at the same time, finding ways to reduce the tedium and sheer hard work of the manual labour part - make the act of creation much more fun to be part of...
This is part of a bigger plan that’s being seeded as we speak…a plan to breathe life into every corner of Choiseul, bring visitors – local and international to these limestone hills and jaw-dropping gullies. I’ll post more as we go, but for now, I’d like to share some pictures of Irena Alphone of Matin, Choiseul as she demonstrated, in Catty Osman’s pottery hut, making her “Cocoa Farmer” to the visiting Florida Gulf Coast University students a couple of weeks ago.