Dion Smith, Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation, cuts the ribbon to open the Grand Bahama Arts and Craft Centre in Freeport, watched by Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis, Agriculture Minister V Alfred Gray and others on Thursday. Photo: Vandyke Hepburn/BIS
By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
MORE than $70,000 worth of Bahamian handicrafts were exported to Germany providing international exposure for talented Bahamian artisans, it was revealed this week.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip ‘Brave’ Davis officially opened Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation’s (BAIC) Grand Bahama Arts and Craft Centre in Freeport, which provides a venue for local artisans to showcase and sell authentically Bahamian-made products and souvenirs, on Thursday.
The building was constructed a few years ago at a cost of over $500,000 on two acres of land donated by the Grand Bahama Port Authority.
BAIC Executive Chairman Dion Smith said the facility marks an important milestone for the organisation and artisans on Grand Bahama. In addition to showcasing products, he said there is also a training area where persons can learn how to make Bahamian handicrafts.
“We have the potential as a people to produce Bahamian handicraft products not only for the local market, but indeed for international market as well," Mr Smith said. "It was only a few months ago that more than $70,000 of Bahamian made hanidcraft products were shipped to a company called Emporte, in Germany.”
Mr Smith, the MP for Nassau Village, said that it provided international exposure for The Bahamas and Bahamian artisans. “We can easily do this again. I have high hopes for artisans and hope we can turn $70,000 into $140,000 next year,” he said.
The centre also consists of a retail section, production room, and art gallery, which will be used an event space to earn additional income for BAIC.
Mr Davis said: “When we consider the annual visitor spend on arts and crafts in the Bahamas, which is in excess of $100 million annually, the magnitude of this opportunity and the impact of this facility begins to crystallise in a tangible way."
He said that efforts have been made in Grand Bahama by BAIC - which held ‘A call for Artistans’ town meetings on the island - to find talented local artisans.
The Deputy Prime Minister indicated that the Standards Committee has set a standard that all artisans must meet to ensure that crafts sold locally are made of at least 60 per cent indigenous materials to encourage the full exploitation of the arts and crafts value chain.
“The knock-on effect of this approach to items approved for sale in this centre means that besides the sale of the end product created by the artisan, an economic opportunity is also created for someone to collect and sell driftwood and seashells from the beaches, or seeds from the Poinciana tree, or conch shells for any number of indigenous items,” Mr Davis said.
Mr Davis said that the centre can be major tourist attraction on Grand Bahama as arrangements have been made for tour operators to bring visitors to the facility for tours.
In addition to handicrafts, he said that paintings and sculptures depicting the flora and fauna of Grand Bahama will be displayed in the Art Gallery, which will generate revenue as an event space for small receptions.
Mr Davis commended the Grand Bahama Port Authority for its support and commitment to partnership with the government in the establishment of the arts and craft centre, which represents progress towards import substitution in the handicraft sector.