Walking through the town of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, I was surprised to find a trove of spectacular Haitian artwork, including hand-painted silk scarves, prints, jewelry, wood and metal artifacts, embroidered denim jackets, and sequined drapo, among other beautiful creations. Dedicated to sustainable living through art, RaRa is a small shop that showcases and sells Haitian artists’ work to support the community of Matènwa in Haiti.
As the RaRa description explains, “On the island of Lagonav families are struggling to survive as the fertile soil that once produced an abundance of food now washes into the sea with each rain. Women and children travel miles to collect precious water from a scattering of mountain springs. It becomes more and more difficult to survive by doing things the old ways in a region largely abandoned by the Haitian government. There is a constant struggle to afford rice, fuel, and medicine.”
Atis Fanm Matènwa is an artisans’ collective organized to tap the great creativity of the women of Matènwa community “to encourage self-respect and independence using new methods of self-sufficiency without rocking a fragile balance by using up limited natural resources like firewood and water.” With few resources left to support their families, these women, in collaboration with two artists from the United States, have learned new skills as silk-painters, printmakers, and bead, sequin, and embroidery artists. The images they create reflect their everyday lives, culture, and history. “The sales of the women’s artwork have already made a profound change in their lives. Not only are the artists proud of their success but also have become, as a group, a strong and respected voice in the community.”
For those of you who live close to Cape Cod, RaRa is located at 6 Commercial Street (next to The Juice Restaurant) in Wellfleet, Massachusetts (509-349-3433).
For more information on the Atis Fanm Matènwa collective, see http://www.artMatènwa .org/
[Many thanks to Sky for her warmth and hospitality and for providing so much information on this project.]