Comite Artisanal Haitien (CAH) was founded in 1973 to support rural craft persons from Haiti. CAH gives local artisans the ability to sell their crafts in the local markets in Port-au-Prince. The aim of the organization is to build a sale outlet for artisanal communities and help reduce the flow of migrating youth from these communities into the city as wage workers.
Rich traditions and skills passed down many generations, make Haitian crafts a reflection of a vibrant and creative community. Most of the crafts include unique metal artworks made from recycled oil drums, river stone carvings from naturally occurring, soft river bed stones, papier maché masks and hand painted wooden products.
Today, CAH is a non-profit organization that represents about 200 artisans from various parts of Haiti. In addition to creating new job opportunities, CAH offers skill training, literacy camps, health facilities and financial assistance to its artisan members. Artisans producing for CAH are paid a fair wage and organize themselves in various ways such as cooperatives, family workshops or independent artisans.
Comite Artisanal Haitien has made endless efforts to connect to international retailers and developmental agencies to promote these beautiful crafts. CAH has had some success by participating at a folk art fair in the United States and receiving a grant from the Inter-American Foundation to expand in their efforts. Every member and employee at CAH is committed to a better future for the artisans and the rich Haitian crafts.
Since pre-Columbian times Haiti's skilled artisans have been known to use natural fibers such as palm, vetiver, sisal, banana leaf and vine into functional baskets and works of art.
Comite Artisanal Haitien, supports over 200 artisans and their rich vibrant culture. The organization has helped these skilled artisans, to promote their generation old heirloom crafts. The various crafts practiced by Haitien artisans include, unique metal artworks, river stone carvings, paper mache masks, basketry and hand painted wooden products.
Sisal (agave sisalana) is an agave that yields a stiff fiber traditionally used in making twine, rope and other such items. The plant’s origin is uncertain, it is hypothesized to be a Chiapas origin. What is known is that in the 19 century, sisal cultivation spread to Florida, the Caribbean Islands, Brazil, Africa and Asia. Sisal is considered to be a tropical plant because it thrives in temperatures above 77 degrees fahrenheit/25 degrees celsius and in bright sunshine. The life-span of the sisal plant is approximately 7-10 years and on average produces 200-250 commercially usable leaves.
The fiber from the plant is extracted by a process known as "decortication.” This natural process involves removing the outer coverings from the plant by crushing the leaves and beating them with a wheel with blunt knives, so that only the fibers remain. The fiber is then dried and brushed (cleaned) and is ready for use.
Traditionally sisal was used are agricultural twines, mostly because of its strength, durability and ability to stretch, sisal has many uses including paper, cloth, macramé, baskets, placemats, wall coverings and mats among others.