Over the past four decades, various organisations in Saint Lucia and elsewhere have carried out surveys and studies regarding not only art, but also craft in the Caribbean. Based on the studies and newspaper articles that I have read on the subject in recent years, it is clear that one thing that they all have in common is the fact that craft and tourism are intrinsically linked. Together, they can boost local economies in a big way. This has been proven in the Dominican Republic which has a successful craft industry. Still, besides tourism being the main income earner for several Caribbean islands, I keep asking myself why is it that the creators of the crafts continue to struggle to earn a living.

For example, one evening in 2019, I tuned in to the radio only to hear that the very topic of craft was being discussed in St. Vincent. I decided to listen to the discussion, because I thought that maybe I could understand something about that island’s craft industry. At the end of the discussion I was shocked to learn that their craft industry was hanging by a piece of thread so thin it might break any minute. The reason being, most of the people with the indigenous skills were dying, and the ones remaining were too elderly to do anything anymore. The documentary also made mention of the lack of support that the people who wanted to make crafts were getting locally. By the end of the one hour (approximately) discussion, I understood that given the chance, craft on the island could flourish.

Saint Lucia’s craft industry is not, yet, at the dire stage like St. Vincent. Even so, those in the industry are concerned about the lack of opportunity to pass on their skills to the next generation of Saint Lucian’s. For example, a craft’s person was asked to teach the children in a local school. The crafts person explained that the money offered to teach was not worth anything at all and felt that she was better off staying at home to make her crafts. Requesting to know whether more money could not be negotiated under the circumstances, the crafts person further explained that it was said that there was not enough money to increase the offer made. In a time when children are not really interested in weaving skills like their parents or grandparents, one would have thought that paying a reasonable sum to those crafts people willing to pass on their valuable skills, would be a great incentive to pass on such skills – an investment in the future of craft in our opinion.

On another occasion a crafts person told us that, one day, she was weaving her mats on her balcony when an old friend (another crafter) whom she had not seen for five years, dropped by.

“Are you still doing that! I left that long ago! the woman said.

“What do you mean! she asked. You know that my husband died when my children were young. And, this is what put food on my table and paid my bills!”

The woman took off in a puff of smoke and did not return again to visit.

Traditionally, Saint Lucia’s crafts people work from home, because the raw materials that they normally grow themselves in their back yard is easily accessible. Also, not everyone has a car to go back and forth transporting the raw material to a specific place to work with it, especially in rural areas like Choiseul. It is, therefore, important to note that most of the people who work in the craft industry in Saint Lucia live in small villages. So, for example, when people come to Saint Lucia expecting to find a ‘craft city,’ they are usually surprised that there is not one to be found.

So, we know that craft and tourism are linked in a big way, like a wedding ring in a marriage. So what can be done for this to be a good marriage. For example, when tourists come to Saint Lucia most of them want to buy a craft item to take home. Normally, this piece of craft will either be a reminder of their visit to the island, or a gift for someone back home. Preferably, they want something that has been created locally. However, most crafts people complain of the lack of financial assistance that they need to start their business. Although some people do get financial help by the relevant bodies, more help is needed. In spite of this, it is encouraging to know that some people are taking it upon themselves to start their own craft business with whatever little finance that they do have so that they can satisfy the visitors looking for locally made crafts.

In our opinion, if more support was given to crafts people by the local authorities in the communities around the island, and if more and more people were encouraged to make their own crafts, the future of the craft industry in Saint Lucia in the field of tourism would be better able to sustain the crafts people for many years to come. Furthermore, this would be a tremendous boost to the local economy just as it is in the Dominican Republic.

HB/LB/ 24.4.20







View from my window
View from my window

When I came to Saint Lucia over a decade ago, I believed that this was the place to stimulate my artistic mind. Indeed, I believed that sooner or later I would run out of things to paint. Instead, I keep adding to my list day by day.

Art is certainly everywhere to the artistic eye here. The sunsets are very striking and vibrant. The land itself is full of colourful flora and fauna in a sea of greens. The sea itself beholds more of nature’s wonder to absorb the thoughts of any artist.

Perched on my dining table is a sunset painting with some trees I have just completed. While staring at the sun rising on the horizon, I am thinking of a name for the painting. All the while, cockerels are crowing around me. In fact, it was just two hours ago, in the darkness of the night that a local possum, the ‘manicou’, tried to grab a chicken to eat it while it was sleeping peacefully on the branch of a mango tree at the back of the house. It was the cockrel’s penetrating screeching that jolted me awake much too early. It flew down from the branch in a panic, and immediately flew up onto the roof of the house. All of a sudden, I heard a loud bang. It sounded as if the roof was about to collapse. Then, I heard the chicken sliding up and down the slippery galvanise in its effort to climb to the very top of the pitched roof to escape the possum. Suddenly, there was silence. The night became still again, as if you could hear a ball of cotton drop. The cockerel had found a safe place on the ridge of the roof to settle until now when the sun was rising.

As the twittering of the black birds break up the sound of the cockerels from time to time, I switch on the light. I start to write this piece. Then, through the French windows, I notice the calmness of the coconut trees in the gentle breeze as they tower above the lush landscape. It is then that I spot the silhouette of the island of St. Vincent on the horizon. (This is it in the above photograph). My mind is momentarily diverted back to the painting. I decide to call it Silhoutte just like the silhouette of the island, because the trees themselves are in a shadow against the backdrop of the sunset.

After a while, I decide that it is time for a cup of ginger tea. I turn the gas on and light it under the saucepan that already had my sliced pieces of ginger in it. Suddenly, the sun has arisen in its entirety.  I can see a stripe of lemon yellow across the sky – grey blue clouds over the white and orange background. It will surely disappear by the time my tea boils. Ten minutes later, the colours are beginning to fade away and the silhouette of the island has already disappeared behind the clouds.

Daylight is upon me on this sunny early morning. I switch off the light to make use of the natural light that is shining through my window like a light bulb. I can see that the sea of greens are showing their face against the backdrop of the baby blue sky. I am thinking that I will start the drawing today of a young girl dancing while the violinist is playing his tune. Afterwards, I will do the painting of it. When I have done that, I will do a drawing of a group of folk dancers. I will be doing a painting of this drawing as well….. I can see the steam coming from the saucepan. It is time to drink my ginger tea so that I can begin to put my artistic thoughts into motion.

Hattie Barnard (15.03.20)

How can cultural attitudes change towards art on an island that is so inspiring to artists

When my cousin suggested to me about doing a Blog, I truly had no idea where to begin. The more we spoke about it, I realized that I probably should share my thoughts about art in Saint Lucia, because even in Paradise, not everything is perfect.

There are two things I have learned about being an artist in Saint Lucia. The first one is that the majority of the general population know very little, if anything about art, let alone its value. Secondly, art is not regarded as a worthwhile subject on the island. Some people might argue that this is not true, but I know this based on my own experience as an artist here. For example, one day, I was given permission to exhibit in a local school. The art teachers were very displeased that I had come to do an exhibition (free of charge) for the children. The Principal walked across to the exhibition and said: “This can’t do anything for them”. At this point, I began to think that if the school Principal himself is discouraging, then, it’s no wonder that the people know little about art. Feeling sad and very unhappy that day about the Principal’s remark, I did not request a second visit.

Then, on another occasion, the director of a tourism organization came to visit the gallery when we had just opened in 2011. He expressed his disapproval of us having the art gallery, stating that we should be selling food and drinks, instead of selling art and anything associated with it. I found this attitude quite shocking to say the least.

Art educators themselves need to have an appreciation of everything that encompasses art in order that it can be embraced in its entirety by their audience. Furthermore, “Art” cannot be assessed in the same way as say, science, law, mathematics, or technology. Of course, there is art history. But, it is the creative process that one sees. For example, a painting on canvas; a piece of sculpture. Art is a creative process of human thought. The creative process creates a feeling of happiness and peace to the creator of the art. This creative process allows the artist to explore their imagination and take them to a different sphere. It is therapeutic and can enable a person to discover themselves in their thought. It enables people to express themselves. It allows the artist to appreciate the environment in which the art is being created. Its importance in education cannot be undermined. Only education can change peoples attitude here about art. On the other hand, the natural beauty of the island will continue to be an inspiration for all artists.

Art has been a form of expression for many centuries by our ancestors. In Europe and other parts of the world, art has great benefits both culturally and educationally, as well as economically. So, it’s about time that this myth here that exists about Art not being important – disappears for the benefit of all of us who love art.

There are various organizations in Saint Lucia who are doing their best to help local artists with the meagre resources available to them. However, it is concerning that Saint Lucian artists struggle to work with each other in unity. There is an attitude on the island that if someone is doing something, then no one else should be doing the same thing. In my opinion, this does not work in reality, because the chances are that there will always be someone who shares the same passion as ourselves.

As a tourism destination, I think that Saint Lucia can benefit enormously from the Art industry.

The craft sector is a whole other topic for next time. But, it is worth mentioning at this stage, that if the creative people of Saint Lucia were nurtured in their skills, then great things could happen for the benefit of the island and the people themselves. Skilled crafts people in the Caribbean generally are slowing dying out, because of the lack of support and education.