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Brookgreen Gardens slates winter season educational Gullah exhibit and lecture series about the Lowcountry’s rice culture

  • Wednesday, January 8, 2014

  • Updated Friday, January 10, 2014 10:07 am

Gullah and Geechee peoples have long been a significant part of the Lowcountry culture. Brookgreen Gardens is scheduling exhibits and a lecture series to explore the rice culture in Africa and America.

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 from January 13 through March 16, 2014. The exhibit showcases the Gullah Geechee Rice Culture with storyboards, photographs, artifacts, tools, relics, and implements and is free with Garden admission from Noon to 4:30 p.m. daily. The exhibit and lecture series are free with Garden admission.

“Rice production in Georgetown County and throughout the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor 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 February 3-7 and 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 from January to 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:

January 18, Edda Fields-Black, Ph.D., author, researcher, “The Work of Our Hands: Mangrove Rice Production in Coastal Guinea.”

February 15, Jessica Harris, Ph.D., Queens College/ CUNY, cookbook author and culinary historian, “Carolina’s Gold: The Rice AND The People.” March 15, Louis Nelson, Ph.D., University of Virginia, “Carolina Gold.”

Brookgreen’s Gullah Geechee Program Series will feature “Priscilla’s Posse: A (Simulated) Press Conference about Gullah Heritage” on January 22, 29; February 19, 26, and March 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 U.S. 17 between Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island, South Carolina, and is open to the public daily. For more information, consult our web site at www.brookgreen.org or call 843-235-6000.

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