If Haiti is to ever recover, its Diaspora must be a dependable partner. The Haitian non-profit, Femmes en Democratie (FED) gave validity to this idea by partnering this year with the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida (HACCOF) to relaunch the Women in Production (WIP) trade fair on the weekend of June 25-26 (2011) at the Miami Beach Convention Center. According to WIP’s press release, the purpose of the exhibit was to “…bring together over 50 women artisans, designers, associations and cooperatives from throughout Haiti and the Diaspora to promote trade and economic development.” Unable to hold the fair in Haiti last year because of the earthquake, FED organizers turned to the Diaspora for help. The result: a hugely successful 2011 trade fair held for the first time overseas in Miami. It was a well-attended event where visitors got an opportunity to view, to photograph, and to purchase unique items from some of Haiti’s most talented artisans and entrepreneurs.
Guylaine Lafontant Danache of "gilenn"
Among those displaying their craft, was Guylaine Lafontant Danache, a survivor of the 2010 earthquake. Interviewed at her booth, she proclaimed, “My mission is beyond this company,” and explained, “I survived for a reason.” Guylaine explained that her mission is to generate enough funds to open a school of art in Leogane, Haiti, on land inherited from her father, where students will learn ceramic arts, fashion, and cinematography. “I have always had an eye for beauty…” she continued which was quite evident in her artfully arranged display of ceramics which drew many visitors to her booth. Whimsical and seemingly inspired by abstract Haitian art, the objects that she displayed were all produced after she survived Goudou Goudou and gained the impetus to create.
Yverose Moise of "AFRIKARIB"
In a neighboring booth, Yverose Moise of Afrikarib fashions expressed her satisfaction with the huge success of the fair. Like Guylaine, Yverose is another survivor of the 2010 earthquake but today she smiled as she spoke about the buzz and media attention surrounding WIP. She was thrilled on the first day when the number of visitors exceeded the capacity of the exhibition hall. People were asked to form a queue and await their turn to visit the exhibit.
It’s quite possible that Haiti is at a point of transition. The return of the trade fair provided an opportunity to witness and to participate in this promising transformation and renaissance. To the delight of the vendors, many visitors left with bags of purchased treasures. Some of these great findings included intricately carved ironworks from the artisans of Croix des Bouquets and luxuriously crafted Vèvè handbags from award winning designer, Phelicia Dell. There seemed to be something for everyone: “fresko” and "kola" for the kids, the latest styles and beauty products for fashionistas, music and artwork for collectors. And if by chance someone did not find any item to their liking, then surely they must have enjoyed the marketplace ambiance of chatting and of sharing “zen”. I personally had the pleasure of bumping into a colleague who I hadn’t seen in over 15 years. She had been out of town in Thiotte, Haiti during the earthquake, and returned to Port-au-Prince to find her home among the lucky few left standing. Her home was transformed into a mini-hospital to serve her community.
A common theme running through the stories of many of the women was the need to contribute to the revitalization of Haiti. The trade fair provided them with the opportunity to display their creativity and to raise the funds needed to sustain themselves and their communities back home. The collaboration of FED and HACCOF was a rousing success. For Haiti’s sake, let us hope that this is the beginning of many more joint ventures between Haiti and its Diaspora.