Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 26th 2014 Contents | COMMUNITY |
THE UPSURGE IN local craft and farmers' markets has
brought a new wave of interest in hand-crafted items, as
buyers, especially women, are always on the lookout for
fresh and pretty jewellery that expresses their personality.
A surprising presence in the local jewellery market is Nature
Seekers of Matura, better known as the stalwart protectors
of the leatherback turtles that come ashore every year to
lay their eggs.
Nature lovers and conservationists, making and selling jew-
ellery? It may not be immediately obvious, but PLOTT
Awardee for 2013, Emma Hiscock, who runs their Craft and
Entrepreneurship Programme, explains that an essential el-
ement of rural development is helping residents to become
self-sufficient. "It's more about people than animals. You
can't talk about development of people without thinking of
the environment. They go hand in hand."
Under Hiscock's guidance, a group of artisans, drawn from
within Matura and environs and comprising mainly women,
convert the trash that clogs our beaches into works of art.
Fragments of carelessly discarded glass bottles are melted
into jewel-like pendants and key rings that glimmer in the
sunlight. Strips of magazine pages are tightly rolled into
beads, each one different form the next, and then strung
on bracelets and necklaces. It's a simple, resourceful, and en-
vironmentally responsible way to combat poverty.
"I'm technically British," she says, "but I spent most of my
life in Guyana and Australia." Globetrotting with her diplo-
mat father instilled in her a love and respect for other cul-
tures, and made it easier for her to adapt to different places.
Sickened by the consumerism around her, she began to
question what she was buying and whom it was affecting.
She became interested in the effects of small-scale entre-
preneurship on rural communities.
The Nature Seekers craft programme is quite a great ac-
complishment for someone who has been in Trinidad a little
over a year, but a childhood spent travelling made it easier
for her to get settled. "It's about trust, people getting to
know you. Once they realise you're a human being just like
them, the walls come down."
Her convictions are enough to inspire her to make the long
drive from her home in Port of Spain to Matura every day,
and she has no plans to stop. "In the long term we're aiming
to empower women, especially rural women, to run their
own businesses. That's where our focus needs to be."
Young, willowy, and stylish, Hiscock almost looks out of
place in such a remote setting. It's easy to imagine her
dressed in the latest in laid-back couture on the streets of
London. "I've always been interested in fashion, but I wasn't
allowed to study it," she explains. But even after finishing a
more practical degree, a Masters in Environment, Develop-
ment and Policy, she was still unable to resist the lure of
She worked with several high-fashion London companies,
all of which were meticulous in their use of ethically
sourced, fair trade materials, thus ensuring that the most
marginalised people, usually workers and skilled craftspeo-
ple in underdeveloped countries, are fairly paid and recog-
And while you may assume that the ethos of "fair trade and
handmade" is more of a middle-class, European thing,
Trinidadians have welcomed the fashion items created by
Nature Seekers with great enthusiasm. They are usually
present at most major craft markets, such as UpMarket,
Bits and Pieces, and the Green Market. "A lot of people were
saying that Trinis wouldn't appreciate recycled glass, but
that's not true. People are incredibly interested in the pro-
gramme and want to know more."
While Hiscock doesn't go out on patrol at night, nor conduct
tours, her contribution to the protection of our beaches and
the leatherbacks is just as valid. When asked how the av-
erage person can help, she responds at once. "You can sup-
port us with your dollar. Spend your money on a project that
really makes a difference. Buy local."
On that subject, people interested in obtaining these gor-
geous items, each one a unique conversation starter, can
check out their Facebook page at Nature Seekers Craft and
This motivated and imaginative young woman is deter-
mined to use her knowledge and enthusiasm to uplift the
country that she now calls home, returning the same love
that was shown to her. "I think Trinidad is a wonderful, wel-
coming place, and I've had many great experiences. People
are willing to work hard and make a difference. That's some-
thing incredibly uplifting to me. That's what makes me
come to work every day.
Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT):
www.plottonline.org; email: email@example.com;
tel: (868) 623-6005.
By Roslyn Carrington
Photography courtesy Nature Seekers
Antoinette Harry (left) and Debbie-Ann Mitchel
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