The Craft of a People

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, September 4, 2019

If there is one thing the Indigenous people are known for, it is their level of skill when it comes to not only cultural integrity but also craft making. As such we will be looking at a few key craft makers who shone at the at this year’s Indigenous Heritage village.

First, we meet a pair of Makushi women from the village of Yupukari. Together they work to build a make a lampshade, one drawing the cotton into a string, so that her fellow villager can stitch the lampshade, an item that is unique to her village and the company she works for. That company is Wabbani, being run by project coordinator Shameer Khan who explains to us what it means.

“It is an Arawak word, and It basically means platform, but for us, as a craft company, we want to serve as a global platform for all artisans in rural and remote areas, The revenues generated from sales here will go back to the communities that have been participating with us so they can have a collective benefit.”

The company currently employs over 40 villagers from Yupukari, helping them to earn a living from within their community while preserving their culture.

They make chairs, fashioned from cowhides which make the backrest and seat. Facings for doors for Swedish home furnishings retailer, Ikea. The door facings use a plant native to the village which is dried and then platted into a design. These are incorporated with clay doorknobs of various designs. And of course, the lampshades, made from 100 percent cotton, hand-rolled and stitched together by the Makushi women, each one taking roughly two days to make.

This is just one of the many outstanding and impressive craft booths that have been making waves at the at the Sophia Exhibition Centre.

Just a few feet away from Wabbani, we meet nine-year-old Rachel Davis from Toka Village in Region 9, with her Clay and Cotton Crafts. Excited and full of energy, Rachel happily gives us her story of journeying into the world of business, from the tender age of seven!

“So, when I was a little girl, my grandmother used to make pots out of local clay, so when I was using it, I used to play with it, and she said ‘you can’t play with clay like that’. After a while I got bored with her telling me that, so I started doing little things and it came out fine, so I started my business in the Christmas village in 2017”

From then Rachel has continued to expand her business, and while she faces the challenge of getting the clay to make the jewellery, which has to be imported, she continues to strive and her business continues to grow. She even has plans to open her own shop in the future.

Next, we meet Calissa Bradford, entrepreneur and craft maker. The unique ingredient found in all her crafts has made her a major hit at the exhibition.

“I make basically everything from coconut shells, I make bands, earrings chains. I make customised items as well, just send us a photograph and we can make it for you. I started as a hobby, I used to make oil for my hair from the coconuts and with the extra shells remaining I started dabbling and began making tiny earrings. After that I realised  I make other stuff and that’s how it started two years ago.”

But perhaps the most impressive of all the crafts on display belongs to a craft maker, Rudi Albert from Parima Village in Region 7, who specialises in Rain Makers

“We are here to represent the Parima craft group and we have brought some craft usually used for traditional in work, recreational activities and other things, so we have brought a few handmade items; they are all from wood materials”

While Rudi has several unique items on display, the attention-grabber, with the interesting back story is an axe Rudi estimates to be over 400 years old

“So, here is one thing we have uncovered, just a month ago at home when we were digging up soil at the farm. It looks like an axe; it was probably used as a tool or maybe as a weapon.”

Rudi and his team intend to take it to the National Museum so that it can be put on display for all of Guyana to see.

These are just a few of the dozens of craft items available at the heritage exhibition, ripe for the picking!