Mahitahi Handikraf Senta on the sea front is accepting vendors to fill 53 stalls in the newly built cool, breeze-filled, open thatch-roofed house that will open on November 29.

The criterion for all vendors is to strive to eventually sell only ‘Made in Vanuatu’ products in the new handicraft house.

National Handicraft Development Coordinator, Ian Baniuri, from the Department of Industry explains, “It is the long term objective of Mahitahi Handikraf Senta that we will have one central shop or warehouse here in Port Vila where handicraft products from the Provinces are kept in stock for vendors to tap into to sustain their individual supplies.

“Port Vila Municipality is partnering in the project and the idea is for the network to connect all the provincial handicraft associations with a long term vision to sell only ‘Made in Vanuatu’ products because our visitors want to buy souvenirs from Vanuatu made in Vanuatu.”

The Coordinator explains that there is a National Handicraft Industry Working Group which advises the Department of Industry on handicraft matters. It is made up of Vanuatu Intellectual Property Right, Vanuatu Cultural Centre and other relevant sectors along with donor partners including TVET.

“The Group is aware that while we encourage the promotion of our cultural products, we must also consider those specific products which have special significance in the islands where they come from”, he says.

Regarding the choices of handicraft items that are promoted for sale, the Coordinator assures the public that all that is taken into consideration by the Group to make sure that what which goes on sale does not risk undermining the cultural significance of the product.

He says Torba Province and Malampa Province with TVET partnership have connected with the Department of Industry through their provincial handicraft associations.

Regarding imported fabrics, Australian Volunteer Sarah Ahlin who has been asked to help set up the market says vendors are allowed to buy imported fabrics but the designs and styles of products produced have to be from Vanuatu.

The volunteer had to leave her project at Saratamata in Penama Province where she worked with the communities to start a handicraft association.

When the Manaro Volcano started erupting last month, she moved to Port Vila.

She was asked by the Department to help with setting up the stalls.