I met Nzimbu Browne at the 1993 Harmony Hall Crafts Fair in Ocho Rios – he was
from the McKies Hill section of Kingstown located on the island of St. Vincent
in the Grenadines. This small island group is part of the Leeward and
Windward chains that stretch across the eastern Caribbean. Mr. Browne was
promoting his art form – native to St. Vincent – that treats goat skin and banana
leaf, then paint and shape the material into an artistic scene.
Mr. Browne was so excited about ACTCo
representing him and bringing attention of his art form to Atlantans, he sent
us a very special catalog to help promote his product.
Mr. Browne impressed me with his gentlemanly nature, passion for his island’s art
form, and entrepreneurial ability. I purchased both goatskin and banana
leaf pieces and made him one of the first nine artisans / product lines that ACTCo selected to represent. The
student run enterprises’ purpose was to brand the artisans, and create demand
for their respective art forms. That was Mr. Browne’s hope – to find
American distributors who would move his product and earn good money.
I believed that his art form was a natural for the IBP / ACTCo to represent and sell. It was attractive, wholesome,
and did sell fairly well too. Mr. Browne also proved to be a very
reliable supplier which was important for us to strengthen his brand.
From 1993 – 2003, the IBP / ACTCo imported
more than $20,000 of product from Caribbean suppliers with the bulk being from
Some popular examples of Banana Leaf Art priced in 1993 – 1997 dollars:
Our experience with Mr. Browne’s lines is that the goat skin pieces have a
richer feel and look than banana leaf and sell twice as well. ACTCo / Warrior Warehouse maintained a
balanced mix of each. With each new supply, we began to notice that
banana leaf was being shipped more and goat skin less. When we placed our
next order, we inquired about the lack of goatskin pieces.
Mr. Browne quickly responded to our inquiry. He explained that the goat
population had declined markedly – a result was that fewer and fewer goat skins
were of the quality that he could use for his art pieces. The fabrics
were not absorbing the treatment process well nor holding the painted colors –
he was forced to cease making goat skin pieces and had to focus on the more
widely available banana leaf exclusively.
It was very rewarding to serve as middleman for Nzimbu Browne. He enriched
us with his art – we helped him make a better living for his family. Many
Atlantans were made aware of his art form and educated about its
production. Mr. Browne’s art pieces were bought by my late wife Sue and I
to give as gifts to friends and family – everyone loved his art. Two of
his banana leaf pieces hang in my great room. My representing Mr. Browne
and the other Caribbean suppliers was one of the best aspects of the Atlanta Caribbean Trading Company