When two Ontario East artists help women in East Africa, it results in a new business in Downtown Kingston
When Heather and Whitney Haynes decided to launch a special exhibition of their work, they looked for a storefront in Kingston that was available for a short term lease. Heather paints and Whitney crafts jewelry. The exhibition, Women of East Africa, is based on Heather’s travels in East Africa from 2008 to 2012, and pays homage to the women that she met in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is raising funds for the Pamoja Tunawea Women’s Centre in Moshi, Tanzania, which started out as a women’s centre in 2007. The Centre has since grown to include a medical clinic, legal support, counseling services, a shelter, business training and a micro finance program. The goal of the Centre is to provide women at risk with the resources, skills and strength they need to break the cycle of poverty and the social disadvantages that increase their risk of infection, especially from HIV/AIDS.
“I’ve been going to Africa and interviewing women there since 2008,” says Heather, noting that this is a long term project with Dr, Karen Yeates who started the Pamoja Tunawea Women’s Centre to help women affected by HIV/AIDS. “Whitney and I have been raising money for the Centre for a few years.” Half the proceeds from the sale of the paintings will go to the Centre.
Heather took photographs of the women and children she met, and then created the paintings. Each painting comes with the story of the person represented in the art. She says some of the stories are quite sad, especially the ones from Congo, adding, “My commitment is to tell their stories, and this is the best way I know how.”
Along with the paintings on the galley walls, you will find jewelry created by her sister, Whitney. Many of the pieces, crafted from sterling silver, copper and birch bark, feature Heather’s African inspired art. Leather arm wraps, ornamented with pendants with Heather’s images are also available. “It’s been a perfect way for us to work together, have shows together, and support each other, and having this gallery makes sense.” Some of the proceeds from the sale of Whitney’s jewelry will also be donated to the Pamoja Tunawea Women’s Centre.
With this combined talent, the Haynes sisters could set up a business anywhere. But their roots in Ontario East run deep. “We are eighth generation United Empire Loyalists,” says Heather. The family owned the Whitney Hotel, which used to stand at the corner of Brock and Ontario Streets in Kingston.
Those roots also extend to Rural Ontario East. Heather’s studio is on Lake Opinicon where she finds the peace and lack of distractions allow her to work best. However, that does not mean she is totally isolated. The studio has high speed broadband, something that was a definite requirement. “All my marketing is done online,” says Heather.
Of course, Whitney’s jewelry and Heather’s paintings will also be sold at the gallery at 318 King Street East in Kingston, and for longer than the sisters first thought. They approached Kincore Holdings, which owns the building, looking for a one month lease. The company agreed, but also planted the seed of keeping the storefront open longer. “This is exactly what they wanted in the space, a gallery. So now we’re going to keep it open.”
The Women of East Africa Exhibition, in support of the Pamoja Tunawea Women’s Centre in Moshi, Tanzania, is open at 318 King Street East, Kingston on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The gallery will also be open during special events in Downtown Kingston.