Pthe uzzles are made in the Bahamas
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Antoine Thompson seeks to bring together the pieces of a fractured cultural sector with his latest creative venture.
The Bahamian entrepreneur and cultural ambassador recently relaunched his flagship product, Junkanoo-themed puzzles.
The Patriotic Puzzles, which depict some of Junkanoo’s most vivid snapshots, are now available for purchase on Amazon.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Thompson reflected on his time as an avid Junkanoo attendee and how his affinity for the festival later piqued his interest in producing cultural puzzles.
“What really attracted me was that I had been racing with the Valley Boys, since 1995,” said the 44-year-old.
“Just being there and being part of the festival, you feel the energy, the excitement and the passion – not just from the attendees, but also from the crowd, especially the tourists.
He continued, “Junkanoo is so original and so – it’s got nothing to do with it – carnival is one thing but Junkanoo is another thing and I felt it had such a mystique.
“I was like, ‘What else can we do with this parade that has all this color and sound and action in one picture?'”
“What can we do to market it other than just say it’s the number one festival in the world, you have to come here and see it?”
Thompson further noted that a close friend also pointed out that the country is devoid of any cultural toys for Bahamian children to play with.
“A friend of mine, who is an art teacher, she also said, ‘Kids in the Bahamas don’t have their own cultural toy to play with.’
Thompson said their conversations inspired him to pursue a cultural puzzle project, recognizing that the traditional toy has stood the test of time.
“We live in a time where everyone has smartphones or playstations, but you still find people doing puzzles, crosswords and sudoku, which tells me this has stood the test of the time”.
“So I went to YouTube and googled and saw videos on how to do a basic puzzle, what machine to buy, how to take pictures and put them on cardboard,” said the puzzle maker.
Assemble the pieces
Thompson would go on to invest in a puzzle machine and obtain a business license to revive his business.
In December 2014, he created his first puzzle using an image he captured at that year’s Junkanoo festival.
Thompson’s puzzles would prove to be a game changer, garnering praise from the Ministry of Tourism for their innovation.
He recalls, “Once I created my first junkanoo puzzle, I went to the Ministry of Tourism.”
“They have a section that deals with Bahamian artisans making Bahamian crafts here in the Bahamas, and they saw the junkanoo puzzle and they were like, ‘Man, this is something different. We have never seen anything like it before”.
“They had a show on Bay Street where they allowed Bahamian artisans to display their work, and I would go there with the puzzles and the tourists would buy them.”
Thompson, after seeing how well tourists responded to the puzzles, he planned to launch them on Amazon.
It took him two years to acquire a seller’s license from the online retailer.
He says that despite the cumbersome process, he feels accomplished to have his puzzles live on the website.
“It felt so good to say, ‘Man, I’m on Amazon'”
“As a Bahamian, when you do something like that, you feel like a celebrity. You feel like you’ve reached that level when you’re competing against the big companies that have stuff on Amazon.
“Even though it took me almost two years, I felt so accomplished.”
Thompson said Eyewitness News that he plans to expand the reach of his business, revealing that he is striving to get the puzzles from US retail giants Walmart and Target.
Antoine Thompson’s junkanoo puzzles can be found on Amazon, and custom puzzles can also be requested on its official website: https://jigsawbahamas.com