Fearing that Caymanian crafts will soon be buried forever in a pile of cheaper, foreign-made items available at most higher-profile tourist shops, island lawmakers are seeking to bring back some of Cayman’s heritage by establishing a local crafts training centre.
George Town MLA Lucille Seymour proposed the idea in a private member’s motion to the Legislative Assembly earlier this month.
‘The Cayman Islands have a rich but neglected cultural tradition,’ Ms Seymour said during her debate on the motion. ‘Caymanian craft is not as prominent — as other crafts that come from overseas.’
Ms Seymour argued that establishment of a training centre to help refine local skills such as crafting jewellery, or making baskets would also help boost Cayman’s tourism product.
‘Tourists come to a country for different reasons, part of that is for culture,’ she said. ‘I don’t see that here.’
Sister Islands MLA Moses Kirkconnel supported Ms Seymour’s motion, but noted that Cayman Brac’s problems with promoting local crafts are somewhat different than those experienced in Grand Cayman.
‘Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are blessed with craftspeople,’ Mr. Kirkconnel said. ‘If you know where to find Caymanite jewellery or where baskets are being made, you can go to various houses and find it. But a lot of our tourists don’t know where to find those.’
The motion was supported and passed by all present legislators. However, at least one member of the assembly said that passage simply amounted to ‘lip service’ until government decided to do something substantive.
‘This comes down to economics,’ said Opposition MLA Rolston Anglin. ‘How many of us support our local artists? How many of us own black coral jewellery? How many of our wives own thatch handbags?’
‘This is an issue that gets a lot of lip service, but people are not going to be in these industries if they can’t make any money from them.’
Mr. Anglin noted in many tourist shops locally-made goods are simply priced out of the market by cheaper, mass-produced items that come from overseas.
‘The question is: ‘What are we going to allow indigenous products to compete against?’
Tourism Minister Charles Clifford agreed a craft training centre would have to be supported by locations where Caymanian crafts could be sold for a profit. He suggested one of those places could be at the weekly farmer’s market in Lower Valley.
Mr. Anglin said the Cayman Street area at Boatswain’s Beach would also be another good spot to sell local crafts.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts promised his administration would do everything it could to promote Caymanian crafts.
‘We’ve lost too much,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘The least we can do is to stop the bleed, stop the loss.’