Sweetgrass Baskets and the Gullah Tradition
The ancient African art of sweetgrass basket making has been practiced for more than 300 years in the Christ Church Parish of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Seen on the roadways of Charleston County and in museums and galleries worldwide, these unique handmade baskets are crafted from sweetgrass, bullrush, pine needles, and palm leaves. Traditionally, artisans use a piece of the rib bone of a cow and a pair of scissors as their only tools for construction. When English settlers founded Christ Church Parish in the late 1600s, they saw a place rich in natural beauty and ideal for harvesting rice, cotton, and indigo. Skilled agricultural laborers were needed, and consequently, South Carolina became the top importer of enslaved West Africans. Finding a landscape similar to their homeland, those who came kept many of their traditional practices. Today, the richness of the West African presence can be seen in Charleston's architecture, basketry, and ironworks.
Written by Joyce V. Coakley
2005 Arcadia Publishing
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