Gullah Cultural Legacies, Second Edition: A Synopsis of Gullah Traditions, Customary Beliefs, Artforms and Speech on Hilton Head Island and Vicinal Sea Islands in South Carolina and Georgia

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9780972659710: Gullah Cultural Legacies, Second Edition: A Synopsis of Gullah Traditions, Customary Beliefs, Artforms and Speech on Hilton Head Island and Vicinal Sea Islands in South Carolina and Georgia

This book contains significant cultural words and terms of the Gullah Culture. It is an attempt to promote a better understanding of past traditions and present day practices in preventing permanent loss of memory of those terms that are truly Gullah. Most of the terms are currently used in the everyday vocabulary of Gullah speakers, while others have fallen into disuse but have been recalled for inclusion in this work.

The content of this book is based entirely on my experience of growing up Gullah on Hilton Head Island in the mid 20th century before the Island was connected by a bridge to the mainland.

Life on Hilton Head Island between the 1860s and the 1960s was a unique, cultural experience when compared to mainland lifestyle during the same period. The culture that thrived on Hilton Head and other Coastal Islands in the region had its beginning on the West Coast of Africa. Before being imported to the Sea Islands during the despicable slave trade period between the 1500’s and early 1800s, West Africans not only survived, they thrived - spiritually, intellectually, and physically - mainly because family members and families bonded to one another. After slavery, a close- knit community evolved with these basic qualities already in place drawing on each separately and collectively as time moved from period to period.

Throughout the history of Gullah culture, place has been important - whether it was the huge oak tree in the forest where a "young soul" went to meditate while "seeking" or the "landing" where a fisherman kept his or her "bateau" so it would float appropriately when the tide was right to "go casting."

The Gullah language, perhaps more than any other cultural asset, has allowed Gullah people to remain one big family. It has kept us intellectual, esoteric and protected. Yet it has been so attractive to others that the entire culture has reached the larger world.

Like with all cultures, food grounds the Gullah culture. Saltwater rice-eating Geechees is the term commonly used among Black people to describe their African kins who live along the saltwater coast. The key word here is rice, a most enjoyable staple in the daily diet of every traditional Gullah family. The fact that West Africans had been growing and preparing delicious rice dishes five thousand years before the slave trade began is not lost on our love of rice dishes. A mulatto rice Pilau with freshly fried fish; swimp & okra and matos (gumbo); peas and rice; sweet tater; and watermelon would all but confirm the Gullah legacy.

Our spirituality has always been secured by an abiding faith in varied historic beliefs that may transcend religions and denominations. Some Gullah people on occasions combine Christian beliefs with those of ancient Africa to satisfy their spiritual need. For example, one might combine meditation at the mourning bench with a hand from a witch doctor to meet one's worldly need.

Art forms have always been critical to the survival of Gullah people. A bateau and a cast net have been used for hundreds of years to gather food from creeks and rivers when access to natural resources was truly available to everyone. Also, a sweet grass basket has been a valuable houseware, which is today a much- desired commemorative art.

Like most cultures, the Gullah culture has not changed solely on its own terms. Most changes have been forced on it through land use and other mainstream policies despite resistance and the obvious inability for various reasons to adapt to the new culture. These policies are often the result of policy makers not understanding the culture and in some cases unwilling to learn.

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