Owner of Modest Sensaations, Partiena Modeste at her booth at the National Christmas Craft Market on Friday. – Photo by Joey Bartlett
MEMBERS of the public were greeted by moko jumbies, blue devils and the Pierrot Grenade as they made their way to the National Christmas Craft Market.
The opening event, held at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Friday, and co-ordinated by Export Centres Company Ltd (ECCL), featured Sport and Community Development Minister Shamfa Cudjoe-Lewis, who said the event, now in its second year, has quickly developed into an incredible space for local artisans.
Cudjoe-Lewis said while the venture is costly, it serves as a way to bring more people out and showcase the creativity of the local community. She expressed her pleasure in the event, saying it provided a different experience from her usual Friday-morning routine. Cudjoe-Lewis said her ministry plans to collaborate with key soca stars and other industry members in 2024 to bring artisans to their events, providing more opportunities for them to showcase their work and stimulate the economy.
She highlighted three main features of the Christmas craft market she was proud of: firstly, its inclusivity, showcasing and respecting traditional creations of the First People. She also said 2023 is the first year the First People have participated in the Prime Minister’s Best Village competition.
Secondly, she said eight female entrepreneurs from the She Trade programme in Tobago were present, giving them a space to expand their network and showcasing items that included food and beverages, beauty products and crafts.
Lastly, the minister said during the covid19 pandemic, the ministry embarked on a short skills project that trained over 13,000 people online.
She said the craft market increased its vendors from 50 to 100 artisans, praising the quality of the crafts produced and comparing the products to those sold internationally.
She thanked ExporTT for providing opportunities and training and expressed excitement about its plans for the new year. Cudjoe-Lewis called on ECCL to increase its visibility and presence in 2024, encouraging more training, graduation ceremonies and active promotion through its social media.
In an impromptu speech, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne expressed happiness at being part of an event celebrating the development of the craft industry. He acknowledged more needs to be done for the industry so it is not merely seasonal, and highlighted its untapped potential.
Browne said his ministry would lend support to showcase, develop and elevate the market, calling on the diplomatic sector to source local artisanal products for gifts. He issued a challenge to members of the diplomatic corps to find ways to work with the industry and help on its journey.
Erica Simpson, owner of Kuttage Artisan Boutique, called for support from other government agencies to help create dedicated spaces that promote authentic, handmade crafts, saying there is a need to make and brand products locally as she encouraged more events like the craft market in 2024.
Simpson said spaces like the craft market are crucial for the economy, addressing the challenge artisans face in making their products more visible.
Vendor Parteina Modeste, owner of Modest Sensations, spoke about the opportunities the craft market provided for networking and showcasing the wines she makes. She said there is a need for more initiatives and collaborations to ensure cost-effective products can meet demand.
Aretha Fisher, owner of Lova and Joy Enterprise, another wine company, welcomed the opportunity to introduce her wines at the market. She hoped for collaborations with hotels and other business owners to host local pop-up shops at various locations throughout TT.
The Christmas Craft Market runs until December 18 from 11-9pm.
Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe-Lewis and Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne visits a booth at the opening of the National Christmas Craft Market on December 15. – Photo by Joey Bartlett