The Craft industry in the Kalinago Territory is very much dependent on the availability of natural resources. These raw materials include the larouma reed, mibi, cashibou, the calabash gouge, the frije tree, coconut fibre, shell and husk and a wide variety of seeds.
The craft industry in itself is primarily focused on as a tourism product. As such there are a number of individuals gainfully employed as seasonal artisans, vendors, tour guides and tour operators.
Authentic Kalinago Crafts - Jewelry Baskets
The Larouma (Ischnosiphon arouma) is a reed which, for the most part of Kalinago existence on the island of Wai’tukubuli (Dominica), was grown and nurtured in the forests in close proximity of the Kalinago settlements.
Figure 18 Larouma plant
The Kalinago people primarily used Larouma to weave several items of utility such as baskets, manioc squeezers and flour sifters. These items along with others that evolved over time can be found at various souvenir shops and vending stalls around the island.
The present assortment items include fans, armbands, bracelets, hair bows, bottles, baskets, caps, hats, mats and finger traps, which are all handwoven.
There is evidence to suggest that the Kalinago people transported the Larouma plant to the island from the Southern Continent more than 1000 years ago. As part of the culture of the Kalinago people, the utility of the plant was passed from one generation to the next to this present time.
The reed is manually converted into thin, flexible strips that can be used for weaving. The strips can also be converted into different colors such as black, purple, and yellow through natural processes involving the use of mud and plant extracts.
The calabashes used by the Kalinago of Dominica are not unique to the island since it derived from the Crescentia cujete, commonly known as the Calabash Tree, a species of flowering plant that is native to Central and South America. It is a dicotyledonous plant with tripinnate leaves and the fruit itself is inedible.
After the initial cleaning stage, the calabash can either be left out in the sun to dry or smoked over a fire. They can normally remain during this stage for up to seven days. The former process allows the calabash to become leather-like in color whereas the latter allows for a darker hue.
In the earlier days the calabash was used basically as utensils for carrying and storing food and water and to some extent for decorations. The calabash is also a unique medium which has been used by numerous indigenous peoples, including those of the Caribbean, for ages. The engravings on calabash as art have been done in many forms and oral tradition have expressed various specific methods of how to handle the skill itself.
By the late 1960’s Kalinago artists improvised on the utility of the calabash and therefore began adding the engraving of sceneries: land and seascapes and other themes. Special attention was also paid to the designing of the traditional motifs use by the ancestors especially in the form of masks.
The community has the capacity to enhance national enterprises and has without a doubt contributed significantly to socio-economic position of the island and must not be discounted as a substantial contributor at this epoch in the island’s history.