Revitalizing the Bahamian straw industry and capitalizing on the potential of The Bahamas’ most notable cultural expression Junkanoo, could provide tremendous benefits for the nation’s economy according to Creative Nassau co-founder and President Pam Burnside.
Mrs Burnside says that The Bahamas is losing its straw tradition. “It is a clean industry. All of the materials are here. They literally grow wild in the bush and there is no reason why that can’t be the type of industry that is started up again. We want the palms protected. We are losing the tradition. In the old days it would be passed down. You can’t find many people who know how to plait now,” says Mrs Burnside, the widow of cultural icon Jackson Burnside.
She notes that Bahamians like the late hand bag designer Harl Taylor took the straw and transformed it into a high-end product which was sold all over the world. “It’s a wonderful industry and tradition that we throw put the women. People didn’t want to be straw vendors anymore because it was consider poor. You have to have people working with their hands.”Creative Nassau has developed a short documentary on straw craft in The Bahamas.
“Junkanoo is a whole different ball game. That is a very important tradition to us. We feel that with Carnival on the scene it is prostituting Junkanoo. We feel it shouldn’t be a part of anything we do as Bahamians it has no Bahamian roots or connection. The visitor today wants something unique to the island destination. No one does Junkanoo like us. The shift needs to be put into things that are uniquely Bahamians. Junkanoo has Bahamians working all year round and attracts an amazing work ethic where people will work with no pay.”
“It is spiritual thing. Junkanoo for us is a spiritual thing. It is from our African roots, ingrained in our soul. Of course there will be change, that is constant in creativity but you cannot take the very essence of something and destroy it. Right in those two industries right there we can turn the economy around without any jobs going out of the country,” says Mrs Burnside.