Fair Trade and Creative Practice: A Participatory Framework for the Globalised World

Kevin Murray
Vol 29, Number 1, p.41
Fair Trade has emerged in recent years as a model for sale of goods that seeks to address global inequity by bringing the rich consumer of the Global North in closer proximity to the life of the poor producer of the Global South. With the interest of creative practice in the global economies of consumption and exchange, a phenomenon called ‘transnational art’ has emerged in recent years seeking to make transparent the terms of participation engaged by cultural producers. This new ethical sensibility reflects a growing understanding of art as grounded in a political context. The paper examines three examples of artists from the Global North commissioning work from artisans in the Global South. The circumstances of these collaborations vary according to the level of control maintained by those from the Global North. As with Fair Trade, these collaborations can be criticised as failing to reach the state of true equality between participants. A critical framework is proposed to contextualise such works as models of collaboration that extend our understanding of the relative interests of North and South.