World Fair Trade Day celebrates fair trade's commitment to alleviating world poverty, drawing attention to the way conventional trade puts small farmers and craftspeople at a disadvantage. The annual international event takes place the second Saturday of May.
This year, World Fair Trade Day falls on May 14. The theme is "Fair Trade is Peace," and Hyde Park plans to show its support. Dave Green, president of the Hyde Park Merchants Association, believes the festivities fit with the character of the neighborhood. As part of Thirteenth on 13th, which occurs the day before World Fair Trade Day, participating businesses will feature locally-grown produce and fair trade coffee and treats.
Ten Thousand Villages will host demonstrations by fair trade craftspeople and offer free samples of fair trade chocolates and coffee. "Everyone can come to shop and dance," said store manager, Keziah Sullivan.
Native American women from the Duck Valley Reservation will demonstrate their art of beading in front of Ten Thousand Villages, and Sullivan is pleased people will be able to see how beautiful and labor intensive the work is. "It's a celebration of their art and culture, which is something the fair trade organizations encourage," she said. A local group of Indian drummers will also perform.
The shop will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The samples of fair trade coffee and chocolates will tempt visitors inside the store, as will an extensive selection of merchandise from 32 countries. Sullivan, along with store volunteers, will be on hand to tell the stories of the artisans behind the handicrafts. "We know all the artisans," she said. "We know how their lives are changing."
One example of a handicraft at the store is an Indian tablecloth decorated with an intricate red and white pattern created from designs carved on teak wood blocks. The stamping process is exacting and requires precision. Sullivan admitted to trying it once, but couldn't get the pattern to align correctly. She has met some of the artisans that create these linens and recalled, "One of the women must have been 85 years old. She worked fast, and never missed." The exquisite colors adorning the tablecloths are vegetable dyes. The artisans achieve the hues by boiling the cloths in pots filled with various barks, leaves and flower petals. Each piece is one-of-a-kind.
If you step inside the shop, it's unlikely you'll leave empty-handed. You may fancy the dishes with hand-drawn blue and white designs from Vietnam. Or perhaps the colorful star streamers from Bangladesh. They're made from native grasses and colored with green, purple, red, yellow and blue vegetable dyes. Then again, it may be the wall flower vases from the Philippines that intrigue you. They're made of dried coconut tree bark, and artisans in Kenya are using the same material to make lampshades. Be sure not to miss the earrings, baskets or incense.
There are also small masks from Tanzania, and large masks created through the efforts of artisans living in many different communities.
"Artisans in one province carve the wood," Sullivan explained. "Then artisans from another province apply the black dye, others apply the brown dye, and still others apply the white dye." The masks encourage peace among the tribes because they must work together to create them. "These masks are for people who love art," she continued. "People can see the merchandise at Ten Thousand Villages is so different from the shopping malls."
Sullivan also pointed out how buying a gift at a fair trade store is a double gift. "It's a gift to the person who receives it and the person who created it," she said.
Ten Thousand Villages is located at 1609 N. 13th St., 333-0535. Learn more at www.tenthousandvillagesid.com.