Commentary: Riches In Our Backyard

 By LUKONG Pius, Cameroon Tribune
The fifth edition of the International Handicraft Exhibition (SIARC) holding at Yaounde’s Tsinga fair ground is offering another opportunity for handicraft people to showcase their products and woe customers.
The participants from about 20 African countries see
in the trade fair, because it is no longer a simple exhibition, a milestone in transforming what was initially considered primitive arts into something of international value. One would certainly be asking how things that generally represent the tradition of the people could become international. The good thing with African handicraft in general and Cameroon’s in particular is that it is diversified and portrays the multinational nature of the people.
Going by almost universally accepted definition, handicraft, also known as craftwork or simply craft, refers to a type of work where useful and decorative devices are made completely by hand or using only simple tools. Usually the term is applied to traditional means of making goods. Such items often have cultural and/or religious significance. Items made by mass production or machines are not handicrafts.
Cameroon is participating in this edition of the fair from the posture of a country in which virtually all of Africa is found. It is a country in which one finds craftsmen from the forest zone, the highlands and the grass fields. This multiplicity of cultures translated into handiwork, tells of the potentials that can be harness in order to create employment, fight poverty and boost the country’s economy. The commissioning of the International Handicraft Centre readily opens floodgates of cultural anxiety wherein actors in the handicraft sector are expected to explore and blossom. It is a reference centre in which government has invested FCFA 2 billion and which has as objective the modernisation of handicraft in order to render it more economically profitable.
The Yaounde International Handicraft Centre as well as the handicraft village will equally serve as a tourist centre where visitors will do serious shopping and acquire artefacts of their choice. The creation of the two structures is a practical translation of the zeal to give value to craftwork that has so far not received the attention it deserves. Even craftsmen themselves do not seem to understand the value of their products.
This explains why everyday one finds some of them parading the streets, drinking spots and other popular places with objects of arts giving them out at very embarrassing prices. Hopefully, the International Handicraft Exhibition or better still trade fair, is a pointer to the fact that arts is God given and must be treated as such. It is a valuable tool that can be used in fighting poverty and creating jobs.


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