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News :: Globalization : Human Rights : International : Labor
Fair Trade Art from Zimbabwe Makes Its Way to Boston
08 May 2006
Socially responsible artwork from Zimbabwe makes a big impression and gives a different image of Africa.

Usually the term fair trade is associated with coffee, chocolate or bananas. But how often do you hear about fair trade art? Planet Aid and Friends Forever Zimbabwe will host a three-week exhibition at the Harriet Tubman House displaying fairly traded sculptures from Zimbabwe starting May 3.
Fair Trade Art from Zimbabwe makes its way to Boston
Breathing Stones: Master Sculptors of Zimbabwe will present the work of seventeen craftsmen who describe their life stories through their designs using stone. Buyers will not only be able to purchase amazing art, but will also help provide a living for the artists and their family at the same time.

“This is art that you just can’t find anywhere,” said Sune Joergensen, curator of the exhibition. “This is a great way for the artists to get their work out there and actually get paid for them.”

Joergensen works for Friends Forever, which is a Zimbabwean organization that buys pieces of art from the artists and arranges exhibitions outside of Zimbabwe with the help of like-minded partners, such as Planet Aid. Planet Aid is a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization that collects used clothes and sell them as a means to financially support development projects around the world, such as teacher training colleges, pre-schools, HIV/AIDS outreach and community development. The first exhibitions have been held throughout Europe and most recently Atlanta.

“This exhibit will expose Americans to a positive side of Africa,” said Steve Courchesne of Planet Aid. “Americans are so used to seeing bad things going on in Africa, but this gives people the opportunity to see a different side.”

Most importantly the sculptures are an example of fair trade art done good. The artists know the prices the stones are being sold at and get their fair prices. The artists are involved throughout the whole process. The artists are the ones who decide if the relationship between themselves and Friends Forever is equitable or not.

The fair trade movement has picked up a lot steam in recent years. The practice of fair trade is seen as a way to alleviate extreme poverty in the developing world. While the fair trade movement concentrates more on the abolition of agricultural subsidies and dumping by Western nations, there is growing interest in ensuring fair pricing for artisans. In Boston there are a few organizations active in fair trade for the arts such as Ten Thousand Villages and Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ).

“About two thirds of the sales come back to us for administrative purposes,” said Joergensen. “One third of the sales go towards the health care of the artists. Most of the artists don’t have healthcare and many of them suffer HIV and other problems.”

“Considering the situation in the country [Zimbabwe] now, medication is expensive,” said artist Lawrence Mukomberanwa in a statement. “Not many of us can afford that. But now we have got a budget for that.”

Usually one of the artists is invited to participate in the exhibition by teaching art students the tricks to their crafts. In November and December 2005 Lawrence Mukomberanwa was given a paid, two-week visit to the exhibitions in Barcelona, Spain. Unfortunately because of lack of funding for this exhibit there will be no visiting artist. However, the organizers are looking forward to future exhibitions for the rest of the year in Washington DC, Los Angeles and possibly Boston again.

There is a planned line up of events for this exhibition. On May 19 a follow up concert will be put on by Balla Tounkara, a kora musician from Mali. The kora is an exotic mix between a harp and a guitar. Art lovers will have a final chance to enjoy the sculptures on May 24 during an auction for a select few of the remaining pieces.

“People in the neighborhood are really excited about the exhibit,” said Joergensen. “I went to the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street the other day and they were asking about it. So there is a lot of interest.”

Breathing Stones: Master Sculptors of Zimbabwe exhibition and sale runs from May 3 –25 at the Harriet Tubman House in the South End.
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PC Fair Trade OH BOY
07 May 2006
Their was interesting art and film made in Nazi Germany too. One wonders if BIMC would promote that art. Zimbabwe is a fascist dictatorship that brutally suppresses its people and has impovershed its African population below standards in effect when the so-called racist white Smith regime ran the country. This exhibit should be picketed. Unlike left demonstrations demanding that objectonable speakers and exhibits be removed from campuses, the Left facilitates the murderous Mugabe regime.
Re: Fair Trade Art from Zimbabwe makes its way to Boston
07 May 2006
Haha. The government of zimbabwe didn't make this art. PEOPLE in zimbabwe did. Just because the american government likes to support genocide doesn't mean american punk bands should be protested.
Re: Fair Trade Art from Zimbabwe makes its way to Boston
08 May 2006
I didn't say I would boycott the exhibit. But the left likes to boycott people and their products if they come from a place or source the Left finds objectionable. I don't get infected by speaking with or viewing the work of people from anywhere, whether I agree with their government or not.
Re: Fair Trade Art from Zimbabwe makes its way to Boston
08 May 2006
I don't think "the Left finds" "place[s]" "objectionable". That's undialectical, asocial, ahistorical, and against the tenets of internationalism.
Re: Fair Trade Art from Zimbabwe Makes Its Way to Boston
14 May 2006
i think everyone should check out this interesting radio broadcast online Sunday 5/14:
Re: Fair Trade Art from Zimbabwe Makes Its Way to Boston
24 May 2006
Too bad the neo Nazis of Zimbabwe destroyed the strides mad toward freedom when the country was Rhodesia.
Re: Fair Trade Art from Zimbabwe Makes Its Way to Boston
29 May 2006
would you e-mail me more information?