Dominica's Art & Craft: A Wealth of Talent and Natural Materials
Cyrille "Elf" Henderson had a prominent position to display his craft at the National Art & Craft Exhibition held at the Old Mill Cultural Centre last week.
Elf, the perennially persistent song contest competitor from Grandbay, displayed boats, helicopters, cars and an array of toys made out of driftwood.
"That is what Dominicans could take a look at because we have lots of driftwood all over our coast and it could be put into use," he said.
Henderson, of Elf Innovative Art and Craft, sells to vendors out of his Grandbay Block 44 art shop. He's the personification of the level of talent that Dominican artistes has been displaying for decades.
And for decades the Art & Craft industry has been complaining about constraints in marketing, promotion, product design research and training.
"The problems faced by the arts and crafts sector are not unique to Dominica. 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," said Celia Sorhaindo in an article published on the TDN website in 2010. "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."
Elf makes a similar observation that Dominica has to sell what it produces.
"As far as I have seen lots of tourists are backing away from plastic, backing away from things that the Chinese make," he said. "They are more interested in our local craft made out of wood. I think we need more exposure so that people could go more into it and the outside world would be more aware."
Illustrating the view that Dominicans are indeed talented was an attractive display of bags made by Gail Esprit out of madras material on show at the exhibition. Her husband Delvin Esprit, who "manned" the display table, was a keen advocate telling a reporter that "she's very creative… lots of Dominicans buy especially during Independence."
Also on display was exquisite Kalinago baskets and mats and bottles made out of the Larouma reed. But the craft is facing difficulties because Hurricane Maria destroyed the materials from which the craft is made.
" Sometimes it's up; sometimes it's down, " said Elizabeth Valmond of the Kalinago Territory describing the state of the Kalinago Craft market. "Right now the Hurricane has brought everything low and we cannot get the materials".