Carifesta opens doors for artisans

Unique bags that also function as craft available at Keyi ko Afrikan Arts owned by Trinidadian Khali Kwodwo Keyi
Unique bags that also function as craft available at Keyi ko Afrikan Arts owned by Trinidadian Khali Kwodwo Keyi


Colour and creativity spilled over at the Carifesta open market at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain where artisans from throughout the Caribbean displayed their items with the hope of attracting sales and business opportunities for their uniquely-designed products.

Items such as bags, clothing, hats, key chains, necklaces, paintings, sculptures and bath items filled booths as patrons slowly browsed through each aisle looking for the perfect item to purchase. One patron told Business Day, “It was a place to network and learn about other cultures, styles, food and people. It was a warm, loving and an inviting experience. The colour, sight and sound stood out."

Many of the artisans told Business Day, Carifesta, which ran from August 16 until last Sunday, was an overwhelming experience and has brought new insight into how they can propel their businesses as entrepreneurs.

Liena Babb, owner of Lieshua’s Beauty Studio, exhibited bath, skin and hair products which she said were well received.

“My bath soaps, lotions and hair products are created from natural minerals. I did not expect my business would be so successful back home in Barbados and at Carifesta.”

Initially, Babb had started business with just hair-care products. She now supplies braids, braided wigs, facials and natural body-care products, among other beauty services for women, men and children.

She explained that her experience at Carifesta was successful and she has been able to acquire business opportunities from several Caribbean islands.

Another entrepreneur, Terril Nicholas from St Lucia is the owner of Illuminating Designs and specialises in hand-made jewellery.

One of her creations was made from spoons. She said, “The flag of each participating island was put on stainless steel spoons. This is special because actual spoons were individually cut and made specific to each island.” She is hoping to attract new business with this creation.

Her other jewellery products are made from copper. “Copper has been a source of healing for my aliments and it has proven to be successful in easing my pain. I would like to share this with others.”

She said this business has been her livelihood for the past 11 years, although things at home are a bit slow. "This is my first time at Carifesta and it has been good for me. I have seen new ways and techniques that I can use to display my products to make it more appealing.”

Ayitizana represented Haitian artisans with items produced from metal, wood, textiles and paper mache. The booth was categorised into villages and highlighted each of the material used in the designs.

St Lucian Terril Nicholas with her jewellery designs.

The group’s spokesman, Martine Bourjolly Cantave, said, “A lot of people are interested in Haitian craft. We are delighted with the pieces we chose to bring and pleased with the responses from the public.”

The Plateau Central village, a part of their collection, has a wide range of items made from straws. Cantave said it has been a huge success for them not just through sales but also sharing culture and straw-weaving techniques.

“We were able to make business connections with other Caribbean countries. This is the ideal opportunity to showcase our artisans to the rest of the islands.”

Interested in bags made from fabric? Christal Oliver, a fashion designer from St Vincent and the Grenadines can create one on the spot. Her business bloomed from a hobby, when she wanted a different type of bag to go on a field trip with some friends. Her work is full of vibrant colours and textures in the form of slings, clutches, hobos, wristlets and beach bags.

Liena Babb, left, and Tania White showcase the beauty products available at Lieshua's Beauty Studio in Barbados.

“I started my business in 2009 and it has only grown since then. Coming to Carifesta has given me the opportunity to expand my market out of Glen, where I live and the SVG. I hope to get some business deals soon.”

She suggested, however, that ATM machines should have been placed at strategic locations for shoppers, as “some shoppers I have encountered purchased a lot more than they budgeted for and needed to go away to get more cash. I do not have resources to accommodate payment by debit card. An ATM in the grand market would have made things easier for us.”

Among the artisans from TT was Khali Kwodwo Keyi, proprietor of Keyiko Afrikan Arts, who specialises in leather craft. His booth was adorned with items such as chairs, bags, pouches and paintings, stained with bright colours.

Jamaican Shannia Campbell with her collection of bags and jewellery under her Vintage Chic label.

He described his business as more than just art and craft, but as wearable art that has a function.

“Art and craft can be used to help our youth. We should not lose hope in our children and the state of our country at the moment. It can be changed.”

Keyi did have one grievance with the execution of the Carifesta grand market.

“While my experience has been good, I think that more can be done for artists to display their trade. It seems as though the artists were not taken into consideration in set-up of the venue.”

“As a leather artist, I would have liked to see workshops, where I could display what I do. People would have gotten a greater appreciation for the arts, the artists and their trade.”

Carifesta Contacts

Barbados Leina Babb, Lieshua’s Beauty Studio –

St Lucia Terril Nicholas – Instagram @creations_awaits

Haiti Ayitizana/Martine Bourjolly Cantave –

St Vincent and the Grenadines Christal Oliver –

Trinidad and Tobago Khali Kwodwo Keyi – Facebook @ Keyiko Afrikan Arts or 18683901557 or


"Carifesta opens doors for artisans"

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