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Jacmel artisans success story of the year Add to ...

Project Jacmel update : Deals with major retailers have put city's craftsmen back on global map

The papier-mâché artisans who helped define Jacmel's cultural richness are the success story of the year.

The earthquake struck down many of their shops and erased all possibility of Carnival taking place in 2010. But the group has doggedly rebuilt.

The effort by Brandaid Project, a Canadian company aimed at forging links between developing country artisans and global markets, has served as their catalyst. Throughout the year, the company has been working to broker deals with major retailers to sell Haitian-made goods. Their biggest success to date has been a relationship with Macy's, the U.S. department store chain, which unveiled a line of Haitian home decor products last autumn featuring the work of a small army of artisans from Jacmel.

To help enable the artisans to work, Brandaid used its namesake foundation arm to steer grants (from the Canadian International Development Agency, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund) toward the rebuilding of artisan workshops and the construction of an industrial shelter to store their wares.

While more deals are in the works, the Macy's deal has put Jacmel's craftsmen back on the global map; it has also put dozens of people in the small city back to work. An impact estimate from Brandaid suggests that more than 3,000 people have been directly affected by the Macy's order (although those are spread across several producer communities, not concentrated in Jacmel).

As for Thomas Oriental, the first artist we profiled, he still has his shop on Rue-St. Anne. He can be found there most days; while he's selling a more diverse offering of products, not much else has changed.

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