Androsia Founder Outraged And Saddened
When I founded Androsia in 1970 there was such an optimistic sense of “we” in the air. Lyndon Pindling had come home from his law studies in London with a mission in his mind and a fire in his heart. He was leading us into independence. “We” were going to become an independent nation. “We” could do it! He captured the hearts and minds of the Bahamian people.
On Andros, oh Andros, my Andros! There were women who needed work and I too had been caught up in the optimism and thought, “Why not? We can do it! Of course we can!” We didn’t know how to batik fabric, that was something they did in other parts of the world. In India and Malaysia and Indonesia. But we could learn. We learned together, and refined our skills over the years, weighing our dyes to the thousandth of a gram, turning the fabrics over and over for that unique clear dye color, mixing our waxes to just the right heat. We had to learn along the way, and we did. We created our own distinctive style, different from what they were doing in India and Malaysia and Indonesia. Our own Bahamas style of batik.
In the early years “Lady P” wore Androsia, even though our work was less than perfect, to show her support for a Bahamian business. She sent notes and small gifts to encourage the growing staff of Androsia. We did our dancing fashion shows, not only here in the Bahamas, but “off” as well, as Ambassadors for the Bahamas. And even sometimes with Andros crabs as a surprise at the end of the show.
Bahamians became proud of Androsia, because they knew that it was made here in our Bahamas. How many of us have worn Androsia when we “went off”, to show our island colors. There was a time when people I had never met would stop me on the street in Nassau, and in the Family Islands, and offer their own suggestions for fabric styles. “Aren’t you the Androsia Lady?” they would ask. “You could try one sailboat design, in that putty blue color”. Or “How ’bout a lobster in that peachy kinda pink color.”
We worked hard. The number of jobs for Androsians grew. We created jobs as well for women in the shops in Nassau and Freeport. We grew into the second generation of women, daughters and daughters in law of the original Androsia women. Androsia became a known part of the local economy as well as a part of our Bahamian identity. Since 1970.
Last week on Saturday I went into a fabric shop in Nassau to buy some pins. If you were one of the customers you will easily remember what happened when I saw roll after roll of Androsia fabric which is not Androsia fabric at all. It doesn’t say Androsia, as it does in each and every yard of real Androsia fabric. It says Bahamas. And that “Bahamas” written into that fabric was written by an Indian or a Malaysian or an Indonesian. Not by a Bahamian. It is our Androsia designs, exactly copied, but it is not made on Andros or anywhere in the Bahamas. It is made by people in another country, by people in another land who have been given jobs to make copies of Androsia fabric. Seeing those foreign made copies of Androsia just put my blood in a boil. If you were there you were perhaps shocked to hear me yell, and I did yell, “This is disgusting. THIS IS DISGUSTING!”
Why is it considered clever to undercut a Bahamian product? Bahamian jobs, skilled work learned over decades. For a few dollars!
When did we go from WE to ME?
This shop had the exclusive in Nassau to sell Androsia fabrics. And this is what they have done with it. Ripped off their own people. Taken jobs away from Bahamians and given them to Indians. Or Malaysians.
Go to the Androsia factory on Andros and see how many jobs have been lost. You can feel it when you?re there. There is sadness in the air.
I remember with such longing the love that was in the air when we took on the challenge to create a Bahamian textile and garment company. And the joy we had, the challenges we overcame through the years, the hard work we did in order to make Androsia a reality.
I am a Bahamian citizen, since 1975, and although I don’t live here right now I come home to Andros every year. This will always be home to me. I have no ownership in Androsia so my outrage has nothing to do with my personal economy. My outrage has purely to do with my sense of hopelessness and utter frustration when I see Bahamians robbing Bahamians. When I see that we have gone from WE CAN DO IT to LET ME TAKE THAT.
I do so hope we can wake ourselves up to a better time for our beloved Bahamas, a WE time instead of this ME time.
The Androsia Lady