Amherst bazaar next weekend to feature African crafts
AMHERST — A Northampton-based importer of baskets, jewelry and bracelets from Africa will be among vendors participating in the eighth annual New England Cultural Survival Bazaar on the Amherst Town Common May 31 to June 2.
The bazaar, which features numerous booths with crafts, as well as music, storytelling and art demonstrations, runs from noon to 6 p.m. the first day and then from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. the following two days.
Cultural Survival, which puts on the event, aims to raise money that helps protect indigenous lands, languages and cultures across the globe.
With These Hands, founded by Sarah McDowell in 2009, will be bringing the works of numerous artisans from the Namibian Himba and Tanzanian Iramba tribes.
McDowell, of Northampton, said she works directly with weavers and jewelry carvers in these tribes and will be selling the crafts that help preserve their tribal cultures and traditions.
These products include basketry of the Matiliga Women’s Group, a small women’s craft group from central Tanzania.
“All of our products fall in line with a traceable history within the traditions of each tribe,” McDowell said. “For me, this is about preservation of tribal customs.”
McDowell said she was inspired to launch her business after working in these sub-Saharan Africa nations helping small rural schools improve their arts and early childhood education. While there, she met tribal artists who had no way to easily market their goods. Some gave up and turned to agricultural work.
“I kept meeting tribal artists of immense talent but who were so remote that they had no market to sell their goods,” McDowell said.
Others, she said, had to travel great distances to sell their items, leaving their children home alone.
“I’m really happy to allow them to be at home staying with the families,” McDowell said.
McDowell has returned to the area six times. With These Hands only works with those with whom it has made direct contact and ensures they will be paid equitably and treated fairly, she said.
When she’s not participating in fairs and festivals, McDowell has an e commerce website featuring the items.
During the bazaar, traditional music from Mali will be performed by Sidy Maiga and AfriManding, Zimbabwe wire artist Bernard Domingo will show his techniques and food from Lhasa Cafe in Northampton will be sold.
McDowell said Cultural Survival is an organization she is pleased to support. “It’s a very genuine and wonderful community,” she said.
Admission to the event is free.