Thursday, February 2, 2012


Sweetgrass Baskets and Camellia Petals, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

The word of the day is Kumbayah. It is a Gullah expression which means "Come by yah" or "Come by here". Its connotation is associated with closeness or spiritual unity, and derives from a 1930's African-American spiritual. The Gullah language (also called Geechee) was the Creole spoken by slaves of South Carolina's sea islands.

This sweetgrass basket image was used recently in a Town of Mount Pleasant advertisement, with the title "Kumbaya. (Come by here)". The basket design is simple, but other basket designs are quite elaborate, displaying the artistic skills of the weaver. Some are featured in art museums.

The local craft of basketry is an art form brought to the Carolina Colony by slaves from West Africa. It is prominent in the fabric of Gullah culture, a weave of African and New World elements. Sweetgrass is a native plant which grows in Lowcountry tidal marshes, and is gathered and dried for basket weaving.

The red flower petals are from the sasanqua camellia bush, which grows readily in our climate, and is featured in many Charleston gardens. Ironically it is not native, but derives from the southern coasts of Japan. It is a cultivar dating from the Edo period (1695-1733).

This concludes your South Carolina history/biology lesson of the day!

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