Feature Articles

February 2014

Brookgreen Gardens in Pawleys Island, SC, Offers Gullah Exhibit & Lecture Series

The Brookgreen Gardens Creative Education Department has scheduled programs that will educate visitors and students about the influence of Gullah Geechee culture to the rice heritage of the Lowcountry community and America. Sojun tu Gullah Geechee, or Sojourn to Gullah Geechee, a traveling exhibit from the Geechee Kunda Center, Riceboro, GA, will be housed in Learning Lab One of the Lowcountry Center Complex through Mar. 16, 2014.

The exhibit showcases the Gullah Geechee Rice Culture with storyboards, photographs, artifacts, tools, relics, and implements from noon to 4:30pm daily. The exhibit and lecture series are free with Garden admission.

“Rice production in Georgetown County and throughout the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, in South Carolina, greatly shaped and influenced American culture through the technological skills, lifestyles, and culture of Gullah Geechee people and their enslaved West African ancestors,” said Ronald Daise, Vice President for Creative Education. “This exhibit artfully will allow visitors to engage in a historical journey. Hopefully, it will leave viewers informed and inspired.” Daise also is former chairman of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission.

The exhibit will be seen by third graders of Georgetown and Horry Counties who visit during Brookgreen’s annual Gullah Gullah Days field trip event on Feb. 3-7 and Feb. 10-14.

Exhibit components include information about the language, spiritual life, enslavement, and resilience of Gullah Geechee people. “Viewers will leave with an understanding of the African presence in America and the growth and perpetuation of Africanisms in our country,” said Jim Bacote of the Geechee Kunda Center. His family hails from Riceboro, GA.

“To me, the enslavement tools are the most meaningful artifacts. They’re a sobering reminder of Gullah Geechee people as a ‘stolen people.’ Our ancestors had community life, culture, arts, and religion before and after captivity for the enrichment of America. The exhibit documents our technological skills, ingenuity, and endurance.”

Complementing the exhibit is “The Reign of Rice Lecture Series” on one Saturday per month through May. “The lecture series is designed to educate about the complexity of Gullah Geechee heritage through the production of rice,” Daise said. Guests will learn about freshwater tidal rice production in West Africa, rice-related food ways, as well the artistic, sociological and archeological ramifications of rice culture.

Featured presenters and topics are:

On Feb. 15, Jessica Harris, Ph.D., Queens College/ CUNY, cookbook author and culinary historian, will present “Carolina’s Gold: The Rice AND The People.”

On Mar. 15, Louis Nelson, Ph.D., University of Virginia, will present “Carolina Gold.”

Brookgreen’s Gullah Geechee Program Series will feature “Priscilla’s Posse: A (Simulated) Press Conference about Gullah Heritage” on Feb. 19, 26, and Mar. 5. Through songs, lectures and photographs, Ronald Daise, Brookgreen’s Vice President for Creative Education recounts the historical visit of Thomalind Martin Polite of North Charleston to Sierra Leone, West Africa in May 2005. Polite is the 7th-generation descendant of “Priscilla,” a 10-year-old Sierra Leonean who was captured as a slave in 1756 and brought to a rice plantation in South Carolina.

Cultural links with Gullah and Sierra Leone are explored: language, dietary practices, crafts, rice production, and the Bunce Island Slave Castle. The performance will cite exhibits along the Brookgreen Gardens Lowcountry Trail.

Brookgreen Gardens, a National Historic Landmark and non-profit organization, is located on US Hwy. 17, between Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island, SC, and is open to the public daily.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call 843/235-6000 or visit (www.brookgreen.org).


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