By JACKLYN SIRIAS
MANY people start a business to make a profit while others have other things in mind, according to a local entrepreneur.
Sharon Kenatsi, a young business woman from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville started her art business to revive the dying arts and craft culture in her province.
“I decided to tap into this industry to help support local artists and craftsmen and to help some of the unfortunate people realise the fact that they had skills they could build on to earn themselves a potential income.”
Her business idea was a bottom-up approach where local skills in arts and crafts were used to keep Bougainville’s traditional cultures alive and provided opportunities for the younger generation to make a living.
“Bougainville Pride Arts and Crafts, is all about working, supporting, preserving and utilising the skills of our local artists, while it is also strongly about maintaining my identity and reviving my dying culture and empowering my local people.”
Kenatsi started the venture as a hobby business by selling and promoting local products for six years while still living in Port Moresby. As time went on, she became intrigued by the beauty and uniqueness of the different arts and crafts that originated from her native land. Realising the potential the project had of turning into something bigger, she registered her company in August last year under the trading name Bougainville Pride Arts and Crafts.
The objectives of the company are to support and help revive the dying culture of the arts, carvings and the handcraft skills of local men and women and to create an income for themselves.
Kenatsi works with a number of locals including her family members in terms of maintaining the supply chain for her business.
Their products include baskets of all kinds, local shell jewelleries and artefacts, pottery, all types of cane products like woven brooms, and coasters that are available between the price ranges of K5 and K300 depending on the product size, quality and originality.
For artefacts such as clay pots and other delicate items and products, she travels at least every three to four months to certain parts of Bougainville to buy directly from the artists and carvers.
“Baskets and other non-delicate items that take one to two weeks to make are airfreighted to me,” Kenatsi said.
“I worked with my sister Belinda Heta Tsitar who is mute but very talented artist in weaving and also encourage other family members to take up this challenge as there is a huge potential in this market, especially to foreign visitors and importers.
“Thomas Moikenu, of Siwai South Bougainville, is a very close friend who shares the same interests and passion as me and plays an important role in the supply chain of the artefacts and handicrafts.
Kenatsi said every piece of items that they sell comes with the ‘Bougainville Pride’ brand name and are tagged with the names and details of the craftsmen and women and product traceability and is protected under the Copyright Act. Ten percent of every product sold goes back to the families of local artists in Bougainville.
“… so it’s like our customers are contributing to their livelihoods back home which is a good cause.
“We also promote local prints with traditional designs and sell dyed fabrics (laplaps), printed T-shirt and indoor pot plants for decorations that have tradition designs.”
Her company has also ventured into video production, photography, graphics and radio advertising.
Bougainville Pride Arts and Crafts’ customers range from the international markets (export markets), crafts shops in and around Port Moresby, cruise ships, tourists and businesshouses.
“To get or encourage young girls and boys back home in Bougainville to be part of the business is in itself a challenge because these skills are not taught in schools.
“Consistency of supply is another challenge we currently want to address by carrying out awareness and gathering women groups and young girls and boys to make them realise the importance of our cultural heritage and values and the skills that have been passed on by our elders and ancestors,” Kenatsi added.
“The other challenge is start-up capital and maintaining a cash flow to sustain ongoing supply to match the demand. Although funding is one of the major challenges, I am still able to maintain supplies to our current buyers in and around Port Moresby and to our export markets overseas.
Kenatsi had plans for future expansions but currently she was operating in a couple of places in Port Moresby to display some of the products and items.
She is confident that the supply will improve next year and she is even thinking of buying from and sharing with the Solomon Islands people who not only share the border with Bougainville but also share similar arts and crafts.
One project that the company is working on is the replanting of rattan cane vines that are used to make the popular Buka baskets and other products. The vines are slowly disappearing due to deforestation.
“I want this vine to be preserved by re-planting and cultivation so we are currently working on a project of the vine preservation which is also one of our main challenges,” said Kenatsi.
By JACKLYN SIRIAS