Gabon Boutique is a small business operating under the principals of Fair Trade that collects and sells artistic and artisan products made by villagers, traditional healers, and artists native to Gabon. We hope to catalyze a sustainable economic activity in rural Gabon where few opportunities exist, as well as promote and valorize Gabonese cultures.
Gabon Boutique sells paintings, wood and sandstone sculptures, masks, musical instruments, CDs and videos, clothing and accessories, and traditional products. In the future, we will sell homeopathic medicines, cosmetics, and food items.
The force of Gabon Boutique is the authenticity of our products, natural and original, created by the people of Gabon who still practice and guard their cultural heritage.
Gabon Boutique was created in June of 2008 but its roots are in Peace Corps, where the founder and coordinator served for three years as a volunteer. Eric Chehoski first arrived in Gabon in 1997, and his experience in Peace Corps left such a strong impression that he has made Gabon his home ever since.
After Peace Corps, Eric worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society creating a community outreach program in Lopé national park. Within these two institutions, Eric has travelled throughout most of Gabon, and been given the opportunity to work closely with various rural communities on different projects including rural development with village associations, environmental education, artistic endeavors, and film projects. For a country that supposedly offered little in the way of culture, Eric was surprised to find places where traditional belief systems continued to hold up and adapt with modern society. Inevitably in these places, Eric consistently found hidden artists - musicians, sculptors, and weavers - who play a role in explaining and transmitting traditional knowledge and way of life.
From 2004-06, Eric coordinated the opening of Lopé national park’s Eco-Museum. This included conducting interviews with village elders on migration histories, hunting and fishing techniques, and initiation ceremonies. Eric also collaborated with villagers in regrouping objects for display, including a wide range of artisan crafts.
In Libreville, the main arts outlet for tourists is the Artisanal market that is run by West Africans from Cameroon, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. They offer a wide range of African crafts that primarily originate from their countries, but very little from Gabon.
Gabon is a country with a rich natural and cultural heritage and has enormous potential as a tourist destination. Gabon Boutique exists to create a larger market for its artists and expose Gabon to a wider audience. We do this in order to help provide an economic activity for Gabonese living in rural areas, and to stimulate the preservation of Gabonese culture.