Andros artisans impress BAIC
By GLADSTONE THURSTON
The Freeport News, Bahamas
NORTH ANDROS â€“ Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) Execu-tive Chairman Edison Key has thrown his support behind artisansin North Andros in their quest to retake the market from “cheap, fake imports.”
“The millions of tourists who visit our shores each year say they don’t want fake, foreign imports,” said Key. “They want something authentically Bahamian. And, from what I see here in Andros, I am impressed. I can say that we are well on our way. You have my support.”
Key, the Member of Parliament for South Abaco, was the guest speaker at the graduation ceremony for Androsian artisans who completed the BAIC course in straw and shell craft. It was held at Love at First Sight, on the banks of Stafford Creek.
Using ingredients gathered from the beaches and woods, they crafted fashionable handbags, broaches, necklaces, earrings, hair accessories, lamps, mugs, portfolio holders and other items.
Trainers for straw craft were Eldira Miller and Myrtle Munroe, and April Martin for shell craft. BAIC’s Handicraft Develop-ment and Marketing Depart-ment is headed by Donnalee Bowe. Alphonso Smith is the Domestic Investment Officer for North Andros and the Berry Islands.
Key drew rousing rounds of applause, even from Andros’ opposition Members of Parliament Vincent Peet (north) and Picewell Forbes (south), as he expressed his confidence in the viability of Andros as the leading player in the development of the Bahamas. He was repeatedly referred to as a ‘Down Home Boy.’
“We now have at least 200,000 tourists moving through the Marsh Harbour (Abaco) area annually,” he said. “If you produce the straw, we will sell it for you. We have many projects that are coming on stream in Abaco. It is just a matter of a short time we are going to bring this whole thing together.”
Noting that God works in mysterious ways, Key added, “It may be that I am the instrument that can make the difference, along with Mr. Peet and Mr. Forbes, to move Andros in the right direction. And I am prepared to do my very best.”
Hyacinth Hanna, president of the North Andros Handicraft Association, underscored artisans’ concern that souvenir outlets “have become overcrowded with foreign items, most of which are found in other Caribbean islands.
“When tourists come to our islands they are looking
for things linked to the Bahamas,” she said. “Through the efforts of BAIC we are ready, willing and able to supply and even own our straw markets, and be proud to label our products ‘made in Andros.’”
The results satisfied Development and Marketing manager Ms. Bowe. “We are very pleased with the craftwork that is being produced in Andros as a result of the programs we have done down here,” she said. “We see a lot of excitement. We see a lot of enthusiasm. We are looking forward to Andros moving to greater heights as we work with them more to develop the industry.
“We are trying to garner a share of the local market. We welcome over four million tourists to our shores each year. We would like at least half of them to take back with them at least one authentic Bahamian-made item,” she said.
The BAIC courses in straw and shell craft have been offered at 25 locations throughout the islands.
EXHIBIT â€” Ladies admire items exhibited during the North Andros graduation of BAIC artisans.
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