by Leisha Wong
Around the world, market days are exploding in urban cities with farmer’s, vintage, flea, art, and craft market. While recently trendy overseas, markets in Jamaica have had a strong presence throughout history. From time immemorial, they have enabled farmers to live off the rich bounty of the island, and served as hubs for the community to gather and share news.
Today, this concept of the outdoor market has remained much the same. Farmer’s markets are now a frequent weekly occurrence, and offer the perfect setting for buyers to get fresh produce directly from the farmers.
With Kingston’s Coronation Market as the “Mecca” of fresh markets, a host of farmer’s markets have sprung up across the island.
In the growing response for fresh, affordable produce, the government re-launched the “Eat Jamaican” campaign, in March 2011, to promote local production, local buying, and local eating. The campaign included island-wide roadshows in support of farmers, retailers, agri-processors and distributors.
“Ben Dung” (Bend Down) Market in Falmouth is another weekly market staple. Here, vendors come from across the island to sell their wares every Wednesday. Fueled by its success and popularity, there is a proposal to relocate to a significantly larger area with a transportation depot.
However, although farmer’s markets are most popular, they are only part of a vibrant local market scene that includes craft, art, and holiday markets.
Antique and vintage markets, popular in other countries, have recently gained traction in Jamaica. Two years ago, Kaili McDonnough-Scott launched Market on the Lawn to offer a unique market-going experience.
“At first it was hard to get people to understand the concept of Market on the Lawn,” Scott says, “and during the first year, it was a more “artsy” kind of crowd. However, the crowd has really grown, and our moving the venue to Devon House has really helped us establish legitimacy…” The market draws local fashion and jewellery designers, artists, and farmers.
Of the holiday markets, the Grand Market is one of Jamaica’s most culturally recognized markets. In fact, it dates back to the time of slavery, when the slaves would get dressed up and gather to celebrate. As it evolved, it held onto its ties of the Christmas celebration, and
adopted many more Jamaican traditions. These community fairs can be found across the island, but the Grand Market in downtown Kingston remains the most popular.
Kumba Mi Yabba is a craft fair also held during the Christmas season. This annual artisan village is staged by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), and affords local crafts-men and artists the opportunity to showcase their extensive variety of crafts, ceramics, pottery, carvings, fine art, fashion and accessories. It draws approximately 100 vendors each year.
Liguanea Art Festival, held each April, is the biggest outdoor art festival in Jamaica. Drawing over 60 fine artists each year, it features some of the island’s best photographers, artists, ceramists, jewellers and sculptors. Started eight years ago by June and Tony Wong, the festival has become one of the most anticipated events on the art calendar. “The festival remains an experience like no other,” says June Wong. “Whether you are a novice or an expert art collector, at our festival, not only do you get a chance to actually meet the artists in person, but you also are able to bargain for great deals.”
Outdoor markets are and will continue to be an essential part of Jamaican culture. It is here that communities come together and support each other. But look beyond the traditional farmer’s market and you will get an impressive insight into the talent and diversity of Jamaica’s local “market” people.