Creative Ja providing outlet for artesans
Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
ARTESANS AND other creative people now have a place in Mandeville, Manchester to have their work showcased and sold. It's called Creative Ja and is located in Shop 28, Bankhouse Mall/SuperPlus Centre.
Creative Ja, the brainchild of Maxine Donovan and fine artist Horace Donovan, is registered as Jamaica Creative Cooperative (JaCC), and came about after the Donovans responded to an advertisement in the newspaper, in which Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) announced the availability of tourism and agriculture grants to groups.
The couple, who lived in England for a while and returned to Jamaica in 2008, has always been peeved about products that were regarded as Jamaican, but were not authentic. To respond to this, they thought of setting up an e-commerce website to sell authentic Jamaican art and other creative products. But, as stipulated by JSIF, only groups could benefit from the grants.
So they got other artesans together, formed a cooperative, applied for the grant and was successful in setting up JaCC through the World Bank-funded Rural Economic Development Initiative, with one of its key objectives being "to engage in a strategic ongoing marketing campaign to promote the work of its members".
The venture started out as www.creativeJamaicans.com, but people kept asking if there was a shop where the products could be seen and obtained. A shop was eventually set up and opened on February 20, and had a mini-launch in March.
"If you are looking for authentic Jamaican gifts and souvenirs, not imitation products made outside of Jamaica, look no further than the JaCC. We supply a wide range of real Jamaican products, well crafted and skillfully made by our members," the JaCC says.
The shop, visited recently by Rural Express, is the only one in Mandeville to specialise only in authentic Jamaican products, and is owned and managed by the members of the cooperative who pay an annual subscription fee. Maxine Donovan is the project coordinator, while Horace Donovan is president of the cooperative. The products are sold on consignment, with the cooperative getting a percentage of the sales.
Members of the cooperative are experienced and new artesans, and though based in Mandeville, members from other parts of the island are welcome. "At the micro level, JaCC supports the work of Jamaican creative artists by providing a formal structure through which their work is pooled, promoted and sold locally and internationally," the JaCC says.
Non-members can also use Creative Ja as a marketing outlet by paying a 10% service charge. "We got so many creative people in Jamaica in all forms of art and we would love to be able to bring them on board," Horace Donovan says. His wife, Maxine, shares his sentiments. "For me, it's an outlet for the community because we have very creative and talented people, but they don't know where to go," she says.
Creative Ja is a participant in the Marvelous Mandeville Tour which takes local and international visitors on a scenic, cultural and heritage trip through Mandeville and other places in Manchester. And, "among the JaCC's plans to stimulate interest in the creative industry is the introduction of special tours of production plants, where tourists, school children and other groups interested in learning about the creative industry will be able to see craft items being produced in their natural setting".
Photos by Paul Williams