Working on “Taking a stand to preserve African culture” for Associated Content I found some great online resources for Sapelo Island and its Gullah culture. Gullah is a West African creole still spoken today on Sapelo Island which has the last intact Gullah community. At one time the Atlantic coastal islands stretching from North Carolina to Florida were Gullah communities. Enslaved Africans were brought to these islands predominately to farm rice. Because of the isolation of these islands, for instance you can only reach Sapelo Island by ferry, these Africans were able to retain much of their culture. Mass tourism and resort development have changed the face of these islands. Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society was established to preserve the island’s African heritage and protect the rights of the descendants and their land. SICARS is doing some wonderful things for the people of Sapelo Island and anyone can be a member.
For many folks Julie Dash’s movie Daughters of the Dust was their introduction to the Gullah culture. I found a really neat slide show/movie called The Gullah-Geechee Culture: Saving The Soul produced by the Cox News service who publishes among things The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The visual presentation along with the music from the McIntosh County Shouters will have you clapping and swaying and planning your trip to Sapelo Island.
Mary Jane Volkmann was selected to be the artist in residence at Sapelo Island this past year. She’s a lovely person and a great artist who predominantly paints in oils and acrylics capturing “nature’s gentle breeze as well as man’s resplendent soul” in her portraits. She lived in southern Africa for 28 years. One of her creative projects was to design stamps for Namibia. You can find them on her website. They are beautiful. I could go on and on about Mary Jane Volkmann.