Too little opportunity for the promotion of Amerindian creativity – Berlinda Duncan-Persaud

Berlinda Duncan-Persaud is the Chief Executive Officer of Cheereemee Marketing Agency and Cacique Designs and a craftswoman of considerable talent. There is a distinctive refinement in the jewellery she creates. The piece embody, simultaneously, the indigenous material used in the production of Amerindian craft and the refinement that characterizes conventional jewellery.

Refusing as she does to allow her work to be characterized by what she says are the compromises that attend the treatment of traditional Amerindian craft, Duncan-Persaud markets her work in Guyana and with the help of a distributor, elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Apart from growing a market for her own creations, a task which she concedes is challenging, she is preoccupied with what she can do to give a higher profile to the work of Amerindian women as a whole. She believes—and she makes no bones about it—that not nearly enough has been done at the level of government to raise the profile of what is perhaps the most prominent social and economic pursuit of the Amerindians.

 Berlinda Duncan-Persaud
Berlinda Duncan-Persaud
 Pieces from Berlinda Duncan-Persaud’s jewellery collection
Pieces from Berlinda Duncan-Persaud’s jewellery collection

The one-off limited marketing opportunities that arise out of GuyExpo and the other occasional coastal events attended by a handful a handful of Amerindian craftspeople are simply not enough to compensate for the high costs associated with transporting their goods by costly and less than convenient means. And as happens often, they end up selling their goods at prices that seldom make the trek worth the while.

Duncan-Persaud talks about the patronage of Amerindian culture rather than any really aggressive marketing. Briefly, she reflected on a recent event at Castellani House which she said was so poorly attended that the Amerindian craftspeople who had come to display their handiwork could hardly conceal their disappointment.

From the perspective of her own work Duncan-Persaud makes it clear that she is not for patronage. She prefers to engage the Ministry of Business regarding opportunities for the commercial promotion of her work than wait on state-given handouts that offer so much and no more. In March this year, Duncan-Persaud was one of ten Guyanese women selected to be part of the Women Innovators Network in the Caribbean Acceleration Programme (WINC AC), which not only provides the methods, tools and access to appropriate expertise to strengthen their enterprises but also helps improve their competitiveness and make their products more market-ready. The project is part of the Entrepreneurship Programme for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC) initiative funded by the World Bank’s InfoDev programme.

Not only does Duncan-Persaud believe that there is more than enough talent among Amerindian women to allow for their exposure to such programmes, but also that the support provided by institutions like the World Bank can further raise the profile of what the Amerindian creative culture has to offer.

The marketing of her own creations remains a work in progress. At the local level, she is still unprepared to trust her creations to a vending culture that is unconcerned with growing the market. Recently, she responded to an invitation to attend the Everything Art Show at the Night Cap Café on Pere Street, in Kitty. She describes the experience as “a graduation” from her previous excursions into public events. The difference, she says, is that the event offered her work “a different type of exposure.”

These days Duncan-Persaud has a part-time helper, a situation that allows her more time to promote more Amerindian craft through Facebook and to work to create a market for the best of the creative efforts that come out of the interior, including communities like Awarenau, her mother’s home village which she says has an outstanding creative tradition.

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