Fair Trade Art Comes to the US

By Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

Usually the term fair trade is associated with coffee, chocolate or bananas. But how often do you hear about fair trade art? Planet Aid, Friends Forever Zimbabwe will host a three-week exhibition in Boston displaying fairly traded sculptures from Zimbabwe starting May 3.

Breathing Stones: Master Sculptors of Zimbabwe will present the work of seventeen craftsmen who describe their life stories through their designs using stone. Buyers will not only be able to purchase amazing art, but will also help provide a living for the artists and their family at the same time.

“This is art that you just can’t find anywhere,” said Sune Joergensen, curator of the exhibition. “This is a great way for the artists to get their work out there and actually get paid for them.”

Joergensen works for Friends Forever, which buys pieces of art from the artists and arranges exhibitions outside of Zimbabwe with the help of like-minded partners, such as Planet Aid. Planet Aid is a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization that collects used clothes and sell them as a means to financially support development projects around the world, such as teacher training colleges, pre-schools, HIV/AIDS outreach and community development. The first exhibitions have been held throughout Europe and most recently Atlanta.

“This exhibit will expose Americans to a positive side of Africa,” said Steve Courchesne of Planet Aid. “Americans are so used to seeing bad things going on in Africa, but this gives people the opportunity to see a different side.”

Most importantly the sculptures are an example of fair trade art done good. The artists know the prices the stones are being sold at and get their fair prices. The artists are involved throughout the whole process. The artists are the ones who decide if the relationship between themselves and Friends Forever is equitable or not.

The fair trade movement has picked up a lot steam in recent years. The practice of fair trade is seen as a way to alleviate extreme poverty in the developing world. While the fair trade movement concentrates more on the abolition of agricultural subsidies and dumping by Western nations, there is growing interest in ensuring fair pricing for artisans. In Boston there are a few organizations active in fair trade for the arts such as Ten Thousand Villages and Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ).

“About two thirds of the sales come back to us for administrative purposes,” said Joergensen. “One third of the sales go towards the health care of the artists. Most of the artists don’t have healthcare and many of them suffer HIV and other problems.”

“Considering the situation in the country [Zimbabwe] now, medication is expensive,” said artist Lawrence Mukomberanwa in a statement. “Not many of us can afford that. But now we have got a budget for that.”

Usually one of the artists is invited to participate in the exhibition by teaching art students the tricks to their crafts. In November and December 2005 Lawrence Mukomberanwa was given a paid, two-week visit to the exhibitions in Barcelona, Spain. Unfortunately because of lack of funding for this exhibit there will be no visiting artist. However, the organizers are looking forward to future exhibitions for the rest of the year in Washington DC, Los Angeles and possibly Boston again.

“People in the neighborhood are really excited about the exhibit,” said Joergensen. “I went to the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street the other day and they were asking about it. So there is a lot of interest.”


At Wednesday, January 19, 2011 4:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh puke! If you had done any research at all you wouldn't be patting Planet Aid and Friends Forever on the back, you'd be slapping them in the face! P/A and F/F are part of a Danish organization commonly called Tvind...known as a non-secular cult in France and Belgium. The leader, Amdi Pedersen once lived in a multi-million dollar condo in Miami...so much for "Fair Trade"! That's where the money goes, people...to pay for the lavish lifestyles of the cult leaders! Tvind has a big bad compound down in Baja, Mexico...$10M! Humanitarian group? Yeah, sure...


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