South Carolina ETV

Walter Edgar's Journal

Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art


Friday - April 16, 2010


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About This Show

More than three hundred years ago people from Africa brought an understanding of rice cultivation and skills as basket makers to plantations in America. Their knowledge and labor transformed the landscape and economy of Carolina and made rice the colony's first major export crop. Although working under the brutal conditions of slavery, African people did not forget their rich cultural traditions. The coiled basket became the signature form made by Africans in America. In the twenty first century, on both sides of the Atlantic, the art of the coiled basket continues to thrive and be passed down from generation to generation. In the Lowcountry, as in many parts of Africa, virtuoso basket makers are inventing forms, experimenting with new materials, and perfecting the techniques they learned from their parents and grandparents.

Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art is a major exhibition tracing the history and artistry of southern sweetgrass baskets and their cousins in Africa, on display at USC's McKissick Museum in Columbia through May 8th. Following its venue at The University of South Carolina's McKissick Museum, Grass Roots will travel to the Smithsonian's African Art Museum and then to the Museum for African Art in New York City at its new 5th Avenue location.

Joining Dr. Edgar to talk about Grass Roots and the history of the sweetgrass basket are master basket maker Nakia Wigfall and Professor Dale Rosengarten, curator of The Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston's Addlestone Library, and co-author of the book Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art.


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