Basket weaver eager to pass on skill

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Basket weaver eager to pass on skill

Barrington Smith displays his basket-weaving skills to St Mary High School students at the St Mary 4H Achievement Day held on Tuesday, April 4. (Photo: Ingrid Henry)

PORT MARIA, St Mary – Sixty-five-year-old basket weaver Barrington “Barry” Smith was overjoyed when youngsters stopped to admire his work during St Mary 4H Achievement Day on April 4. He has been working with wicker for 40 years and longs to pass on the skill he learned from his late cousin, Fritz Neil, to the younger generation.

“That was in 1975. My cousin was one of the best on this side of Jamaica (St Mary),” said Smith.

He mastered the craft and it became his source of living. He stuck with it even though it has been challenging.

“I have to go to Portland to get the hook I need. It’s very expensive,” he explained, adding that this material costs $500 per pound and he needs more than 100 pounds for his creations. Despite this he has never given serious thought to leaving the craft and he is determined not to allow it to die.

Sixty-five-year-old Barrington Smith shows off his skills during the St Mary 4H Achievement Day held on Tuesday, April 4. (Photo: Ingrid Henry)

“Just as how my cousin taught me I want to teach it to a young person,” he said.

He wistfully speaks of days long gone when almost every Jamaican household had an item made from wicker: a clothes hamper, door or table mat. It takes Smith three days to complete a large hamper, and up to two days for smaller ones.

As he works, he keeps an eye out for someone who will continue the tradition.

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