There is a 300 year old tradition of basket making among Gullah people in the coastal areas of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Gullah are the descendents of slaves brought from West Africa to work on the rice plantations. Originally the baskets were used to winnow the rice as well as for household use in the slave homes and maybe in the plantation owner’s kitchen as well. The baskets feel as strong as steel. And it is said that they can be used to hold water. Rosemary Sheel photo
For something uniquely Low Country, go to the Old City Market (Market Street at Church) and watch the basket weavers. Most are women who have passed the tradition down through their families for generations in a technique that dates back to when slaves first came from Africa in the 1700s. The weavers use a sweet grass gathered from the marshes and their baskets are considered works of art.
The Gullah trace their heritage directly to the skilled rice farmers of Sierra Leone, West Africa. They were enslaved for these skills and forced to work on rice plantations in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. The swampy conditions made it uncomfortable for the plantation owners so they left the Gullah people mostly unattended. The isolation allowed Gullah dialect, customs and art to survive undiluted for 100 years. One of the hallmark's of Gullah culture is sweet grass basket "sewing."