Public, private sector financial backing needed for craft industry ahead of Carifesta 2008

A senior government official has said that Guyana will be seeking to have the local craft industry play a major role in the 2008 Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta) which will be held here in August but a local craft producer who has participated in two previous CARIFESTA events in Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname has told Stabroek Business that this goal cannot be realized unless both the government and private sector lending institutions contribute meaningfully to the craft sector’s preparations for Carifesta.

Last Friday, in a brief address to mark the opening of the new Kulture Embassyz art and craft shop and creole food outlet, Tourism and Industry Minister Manniram Prashad said that government would wish to see the local craft industry play a prominent role in next year’s Carifesta. Prashad told the gathering that had assembled for the opening of the new facility that Guyana’s craft industry produced the best craft in the Caribbean.” He said that craft produced in Guyana was being bought by vendors throughout the region and sold in the various tourist shops in the various Caribbean territories.

However, owner of the new art and craft outlet David Morrison (Ras Daweed) told Stabroek Business in a subsequent interview that while he shared the Minister’s views on the quality of the craft being produced in Guyana, the industry could only be expected to make an impact at next year’s Carifesta if it received “critical support, particularly in the area of funding. And the member of the Guyana Rastafari Council is calling on government to establish a “special funding facility” ahead of next year’s Carifesta to help the local craft industry meet the expectations expressed by Minister Prashad.

Daweed, whose Cultural Ambassa-dors enterprise is also a regular exhibitor at GUYEXPO told Stabroek Business that the failure of the local commercial banking sector to provide “any real support’ for the country’s art and craft sector to assist in preparations for the 2007 Cricket World Cup was a major disappointment to him personally, He said that both government and the private sector should ensure that craft enterprises “that have the business credentials” are adequately funded for Carifesta. “This event is not only about the commercial success of local craft producers. It is also about the promotion of Guyanese culture through CARIFESTA,” Daweed said.

Daweed singled out the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) and MICROFIN as two agencies which he said had “demonstrated support for the industry.” He said that small craft producers had become “put off” by the conditionalities of some of the commercial banking institutions in Guyana. “Many of us are intimidated by those huge glass doors” (banks) Daweed said. And the local businessman says he wants to see “the fine sentiments” being expressed about Guyanese craft converted into practical support to help the industry move from its present subsistence position. “For the most part the major lending institutions consider the craft industry a credit risk and while as a businessman I understand that banks have their conditionalities, it is important that we recognize both the particular circumstances of the local craft industry as well as what the industry can offer the country as a whole.”

Meanwhile, Daweed told Stabroek Business that the Rastafarian group Kulture Ambassadors plans to approach Culture Minister Dr. Frank Anthony with a proposal to set up a craft village here to coincide with CARIFESTA. Daweed said that the setting up a Craft Village had been discussed by members of the Guyana Rastafari Council and that the idea of seeking official endorsement was under consideration. He believes that a Craft Village designed by the Kulture Ambassadors would add “more life and colour” to next year’s Carifesta.

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