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NBTF Vendors Market offers variety

NBTF Vendors Market offers variety
August 10
05:01 2017

While plays are the biggest draw of the National Black Theatre Festival, (NBFT), the biennial event also offers a shopping extravaganza at the NBTF International Vendors Market.

The vendors market brings in more than 20,000 customers to the Benton Convention Center every two years. This year boasted 100 vendors. Local and national authors lined the hallway selling their books. Inside the main room, other vendors sold a multitude of unique items including artwork, jewelry, clothing and handbags.

Organizer Rhonda Caldwell, president of The Main Event, said the vendors market has become an attraction of its own for festival attendees.

“A lot of them, after the performances end, this is the next place they actually go, to shop, to see the wares from people all across the country,” she said.

There were some North Carolina entrepreneurs among the vendors. Artist Jimmy Boston, who’s from Washington, N.C., came with numerous paintings of jazz musicians and a special piece for the festival painted on canvases in the shape of the letters “NBTF.” Boston is a part-time artist who sells his paintings at jazz festivals and art shows regularly. It was his first time at the NBTF vendors market and he found there was camaraderie among vendors.

“The vendors themselves are great: friendly, funny, very helpful,” said Boston.

Artist Lydell Martin, from Atlanta, Georgia, was also selling unique works, including a wooden sculpture covered in glass and numerous paintings he’s done that were embellished with Australian Crystals by his wife, Cepada. He said his artwork always gets a reaction.

“They’ve never seen anything like it and that’s always good,” he said. “It gives them something to talk about, it gives them something to tweet about.”

Martin makes his living doing professionally painted plates, including a plate with a painting of Jazz Musician Miles Davis that was given to President Barack Obama.

Beside his booth was Timbuktu Art Colony, which is also from Atlanta, whose offerings included handmade jewelry and pieces imported from Africa, like wood sculptures and a 125 year-old Zulu axe. There was also workspace in the large booth devoted to custom-made jewelry that was crafted on the spot by the silversmiths there. Henry Baba Osageyfo Colby, who founded the company 47 years ago, said he fell into making jewelry when he was looking for something to do after coming home from the Vietnam War. He’s now a master silversmith running a company with 15 nationally acclaimed silversmiths.

He said Timbuktu has been at every NBTF because of his respect for theater.

“Art is the personification of any given culture, that culture provides the political direction for us to move in as a people,” Colby said. “Perhaps one of the highest levels of art is theater.”

Another long-running business, The Brownstone, brought bold contemporary fashion to the vendor floor with a variety of jewelry, clothing and hats that create “head turning looks.” It’s the first time the renowned Harlem-based store has set up at the NBTF. Princess Jenkins, who founded The Brownstone 20 years ago, said she’s hoping to appeal to theatergoers who also travel to the Big Apple’s Theater District.

“I’m thinking, people who love theater eventually will make their way to New York City and ultimately to my shop,” she said.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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