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Re: [African_Arts] Begin with Gullah Traditions in South Carolina

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  • Bob Ibold
    Lee, Thanks for that. I had forgotten Gullah basketry... as well as the wonderful quilts from Mississippi and Alabama. See
    Message 1 of 15 , Mar 22 10:34 AM
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      Lee,
      Thanks for that. I had forgotten Gullah basketry... as well as the wonderful quilts from Mississippi and Alabama. See http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ug97/quilt/atrads.html 

      About 20 years ago I saw a show of African-American folk art at the Philadelphia Art Museum. I do remember being especially impressed by the quilts, though there were many other art forms included. Some of those traditions surely went back to the time of slavery.

      Bob


      At 11:41 AM 3/22/2008, you wrote:

      Daniel and Bob:

      For now, here is  just one such tradition with which to begin: the Gullah baskets of South Carolina.  See Joyce Coakley's Sweetgrass Baskets and the Gullah Tradition:

      "The unique art of sweetgrass basket making was brought to the South Carolina Lowcountry in the late 17th century by enslaved West Africans who found palmetto leaves and grasses similar to those used in their native Africa.  These skilled artisans were also astrologers, farmers who influenced rice production, blacksmiths, carpenters, and brick masons who built many of the historic buildings of Charleston.

      "Oral histories give an account of slaves making baskets to winnow rice and store dry goods...
      "

      Also see Joseph A. Opala's "The Gullah:  Rice, Slavery and the Sierra Leone-American Connection." (<-link to "Gullah Customs and Traditions" page of the article), which indicates the range of objects produced as well as collections in which to find more examples and information:

      "During slavery times and the decades of isolation that followed, the Gullah made a wide assortment of artifacts, some indistinguishable from West African crafts. In museums in South Carolina and Georgia one can see wooden mortars and pestles, rice 'farmers,' clay pots, calabash containers, baskets, palm leaf brooms, drums, and hand-woven cotton blankets dyed with indigo. In modern times Gullah men have continued their wood carving tradition, making elaborate grave monuments, human figures, and walking sticks. Gullah women sew quilts organized in strips like African country cloth, and still make their finely crafted baskets."

      Lee

      On Mar 22, 2008, at 11:07 AM, Bob Ibold wrote:

      I too would be interested in knowing about any African art made by enslaved persons.

      My guess is we'll hear of very little. There is a relationship between leisure time and art. The life of an African slave was probably dominated by more mundane matters than cultural traditions and artistic creativity.

      But I hope I'm wrong!

      Bob

      At 01:29 AM 3/22/2008, you wrote:

      This is not on the subject of Miss Africa USA which by the way I have
      no problem being asked to support. Why not use this group as a
      resource? Good for her. Probably everyone here has a Cameroon piece in
      their collection... and here a young woman from Cameroon is asking
      polietly for support in an endeavour potentially beneficial to her
      people and I am going to have my feathers ruffled? You go girl!

      Now ... the question I want to pose ... as it has been on my mind for
      awhile ... and I admitedly have yet to try and research it myself ...
      is .... Are there any known pieces of african art in museums or private
      collections that were made by enslaved africans in this country? Anyone?


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    • Aaron Weston
      There are both baskets and walking sticks........... nashoni_art wrote: This is not on the subject of Miss Africa USA which by the
      Message 2 of 15 , Mar 22 1:21 PM
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        There are both baskets and walking sticks...........

        nashoni_art <dwolf22@...> wrote:
        This is not on the subject of Miss Africa USA which by the way I have
        no problem being asked to support. Why not use this group as a
        resource? Good for her. Probably everyone here has a Cameroon piece in
        their collection.. . and here a young woman from Cameroon is asking
        polietly for support in an endeavour potentially beneficial to her
        people and I am going to have my feathers ruffled? You go girl!

        Now ... the question I want to pose ... as it has been on my mind for
        awhile ... and I admitedly have yet to try and research it myself ...
        is .... Are there any known pieces of african art in museums or private
        collections that were made by enslaved africans in this country? Anyone?


      • Aaron Weston
        Sorry, left something out. There may be canoe or two included..... nashoni_art wrote: This is not on the subject of Miss Africa USA which by
        Message 3 of 15 , Mar 22 1:25 PM
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          Sorry, left something out. There may be canoe or two included.....

          nashoni_art <dwolf22@...> wrote:
          This is not on the subject of Miss Africa USA which by the way I have
          no problem being asked to support. Why not use this group as a
          resource? Good for her. Probably everyone here has a Cameroon piece in
          their collection.. . and here a young woman from Cameroon is asking
          polietly for support in an endeavour potentially beneficial to her
          people and I am going to have my feathers ruffled? You go girl!

          Now ... the question I want to pose ... as it has been on my mind for
          awhile ... and I admitedly have yet to try and research it myself ...
          is .... Are there any known pieces of african art in museums or private
          collections that were made by enslaved africans in this country? Anyone?


        • Ed Jones
          Excellent question and responses Daniel. Yes, there are art from enslaved Africans in museums. Foe example: Quilts. They were a powerful expression of
          Message 4 of 15 , Mar 22 1:41 PM
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            Excellent question and responses Daniel.
            Yes, there are art from enslaved Africans in museums.  Foe example:  Quilts.  They were a powerful expression of symbols and metaphors with messages for pursuing passages towards "freedom" as well deeply abiding spiritual messages for hope, life and "tolerance".
            The state of Alabama is known for such items and antiquities.  There are also artifacts from Regiments (Seminole Negro Indian Scouts), the 25Th Infantry and particularly, the 10Th Calvary - which incidentally, rescued Roosevelt's "Rough Riders at the battle of Las Guaimas.   there is also a painting of American troops at Yorktown, which includes a member of the first Black Rhode Island Infantry Regiment... (interestingly enough).   I am not a military buff per se, but I am well attuned to the contributions of enslaved Africans in the US and abroad ... it extends to all of greater humanity.  The African Arts (ethnographic) is such a small, but significant contribution.  Why limit this forum to just "objects" and not the people which propagated the cultures, traditions and beliefs behind the objects?
             
            Thanks again for your response.  I occasionally wondered about you.  I found many of your past posts to the group insightful.
             
            Ed

            nashoni_art <dwolf22@...> wrote:
            This is not on the subject of Miss Africa USA which by the way I have
            no problem being asked to support. Why not use this group as a
            resource? Good for her. Probably everyone here has a Cameroon piece in
            their collection.. . and here a young woman from Cameroon is asking
            polietly for support in an endeavour potentially beneficial to her
            people and I am going to have my feathers ruffled? You go girl!

            Now ... the question I want to pose ... as it has been on my mind for
            awhile ... and I admitedly have yet to try and research it myself ...
            is .... Are there any known pieces of african art in museums or private
            collections that were made by enslaved africans in this country? Anyone?



            Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

          • Michael Conner
            See: Vlach, John Michael, and Cleveland Museum of Art. 1978. The Afro- American tradition in decorative arts. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art. Vlach
            Message 5 of 15 , Mar 23 5:55 AM
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              See:
              Vlach, John Michael, and Cleveland Museum of Art. 1978. The Afro-
              American tradition in decorative arts. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of
              Art.
              Vlach presents nine areas of expression:
              Basketry
              Musical instruments
              Wood Carving
              Quilting
              Pottery
              Boatbuilding
              Blacksmithing
              Architecture
              Graveyard decoration

              Michael


              On Mar 22, 2008, at 3:25 PM, Aaron Weston wrote:

              Sorry, left something out. There may be canoe or two included.....

              nashoni_art <dwolf22@...> wrote:
              This is not on the subject of Miss Africa USA which by the way I have
              no problem being asked to support. Why not use this group as a
              resource? Good for her. Probably everyone here has a Cameroon piece in
              their collection... and here a young woman from Cameroon is asking
              polietly for support in an endeavour potentially beneficial to her
              people and I am going to have my feathers ruffled? You go girl!

              Now ... the question I want to pose ... as it has been on my mind for
              awhile ... and I admitedly have yet to try and research it myself ...
              is .... Are there any known pieces of african art in museums or private
              collections that were made by enslaved africans in this country? Anyone?





              H-AfrArts
              H-Net Network for African Expressive Culture
              E -Mail: H-AFRARTS@...
              WWW: http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~artsweb/
            • theshamangallery
              hello group , I have an example of African Slave art I would like to share with the group , I have owned the piece for many years , and when I first acquired
              Message 6 of 15 , Mar 23 7:04 AM
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                hello group , I have an example of African Slave art I would like to
                share with the group , I have owned the piece for many years , and
                when I first acquired it , I tried to research African slave art , but
                found little info regarding what I would term Fetish art.

                I acquired this piece from gallery De roche , Sanfrancisco.

                Dave De Roche told me there is No history to exactly which state this
                was idol was carved ,but the piece was carved and collected in the
                south east USA , all indications point to late 19th/ early 20th century.

                The fetish had been in two collections , one apparently a museum ,
                But again , no real collection history , so I think it would be great
                if the group could dissect this piece and maybe someone will recognize
                the inventory numbers painted on the bottom , which likely is the date
                referring to when the piece was donated to the collection.

                The fetish is carved from a fairly light weight wood , with a heavy
                black paint / pigment with a oily feel.

                The fetish was carved without arms , ( symbolic for slavery ?) and
                has a truly haunting face with sunken eyes and and a sly smile and red
                painted accents. The belly has a glass mirror fragment inbedded into
                in , perhaps to charge and empower the fetish.

                The fetish also wears a necklace that appears to be made from tiny
                shells ? (or teeth?) on a piece of bark or grass reed.

                Note the abstract form of the torso , the feet and buttocks remind me
                of Bamana carvings , the glass inset in the abdomen and the top horn
                like finial remind me of Kongo fetish material.

                So it is a Mysterious and a powerful composition that honestly I have
                never seen another to even compare it too , such fetish art from
                slaves is an area of African Art I never see discussed or
                investigated. I am happy to share and look forward to discussion.

                all the best - Todd from the shaman gallery.

                See images in photos folder, "African Slave Art":
                http://ph.groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/browse/eaef
              • walberto
                There is at least one piece I recall seeing at the Jamestown (Va.) museum which is very African in sensibility and was carved in the old south. The piece that
                Message 7 of 15 , Mar 23 9:22 AM
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                  There is at least one piece I recall seeing at the
                  Jamestown (Va.) museum which is very African in
                  sensibility and was carved in the old south. The piece
                  that stands out in my memory is, I believe, a chair
                  with integral figurative elements that are so strongly
                  Teke that mere coincidence seems unlikely. I have
                  also seen carved anthropomorphic pipes from the 18th
                  and 19th centuries, as well as walking sticks entwined
                  with snakes and clay jugs that have been identified as
                  the creations of enslaved African Americans. A show
                  is currently being organized with funding from the NEA
                  that will explore the cultural and technological
                  influence brought to the South by enslaved Africans
                  chiefly through rice cultivation and basketry. There
                  is no doubt that enslaved Africans carried a wealth of
                  knowledge and tradition to these shores. Although
                  much was lost or suppressed the greater part found
                  expression in myriad ways. Probably because much of
                  the sculptural and graphic art of slaves was little
                  valued and ephemeral in nature it isn't found today in
                  any abundance. Slaves working in carpentry and kiln
                  works certainly expressed their ancestral
                  sensibilities in the products they produced in their
                  masters' employ but identifying their contributions
                  against a backdrop of their invisibility is a
                  difficult task.

                  Todd's figure (http://ph.groups yahoo.com/
                  group/African_ Arts/photos/ browse/eaef) looks old and
                  authentic to my eyes. It has elements of Congolese and
                  West African origin. The face, however, looks more
                  like a reinterpretion of a 19th century white American
                  caricature of an African than something of African origin.


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                • GARYGLS2000@aol.com
                  A fabulous piece with stylistic resemblance to various tribal carving traditions. For more Africa slave carved figures, chairs and walking sticks, contact the
                  Message 8 of 15 , Mar 23 10:25 AM
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                    A fabulous piece with stylistic resemblance to various tribal carving traditions. For more Africa slave carved figures, chairs and walking sticks, contact the Penn Center in South Carolina.




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                  • Lee Rubinstein
                    Thanks, Michael. The Afro-American Tradition in Creative Arts is a great resource for commencing an investigation into the historical presence and development
                    Message 9 of 15 , Mar 23 11:14 AM
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                      Thanks, Michael.  The Afro-American Tradition in Creative Arts is a great resource for commencing an investigation into the historical presence and development of African artistic traditions in the US, including those which were created in the ante-Bellum period.  Among other relevant publications by John Michael Vlach is By the Work of Their Hands:  Studies in African-American Folklife. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1991.  ("A study of African American folk art and craft including ironworks, sculpture, architecture, pottery, quilts, and woven goods.") & Back of the Big House:  The Cultural Landscape of the Plantation:  BookExhibition.

                      An exhibition curated by the Museum for African Art and now available as a traveling exhibition is "Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art."  The exhibition will be on view at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC August 29-November 30, 2008 and will move to New York in 2009. (I believe this is the exhibition to which "walberto" referred.)

                      Additional related publications (very far from exhaustive with an emphasis on -- although not limited to -- basketry and textiles, among my own particular interests):

                      Arnett, Willliam, ed., Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art of the South (2 volumes). (Tinwood Books, 2000).

                      Benberry, Cuesta. Always There: The African American Presence in American Quilts. The Kentucky Quilt Project, Inc.: Louisville, 1992. 

                      Chase, Judith, "African-American Heritage from Ante-Bellum Black Craftsmen"  in William Ferris, ed., Afro-American Folk Art and Crafts. (Boston:  G.K. Hall & Co., 1983).

                      Davis, Gerald L. , Afro-American Coil Basketry in Charleston County, South Carolina" in Don Yoder, American Folklife (Austin:  UT Press, 1976).

                      Day, Gregory, "Afro-Carolinian Art: Towards the History of a Southern Expressive Tradition" in Contemporary Art/Southeast (1976)

                      Fry, Gladys-Marie. Stitched from the Soul: Slave Quilts from the Ante-Bellum South. University of North Carolina Press, 2002.  

                      Joyner, Charles,  Down by the Riverside:  A South Carolina Slave Community,(Champaign:  University of Illinois Press, 1986).

                      Leon, Eli. Models in the Mind: African Prototypes in American Patchwork. Winston-Salem State University: Winston-Salem, 1992.  "Draws parallels between African fabric motifs and designs found in African American patchwork quilts."


                      Rosengarten, Dale "Spirits of Our Ancestors:  Basket Traditions in the Carolinas" in Michael Montgomery, ed., The Crucible of Carolina:  Essays in the Development of Gullah Language and Culture (Athens:  U of Georgia Press, 1994); also, "The Lowcountry Basket in a Global Setting" and Row upon Row:  Sea Grass Baskets of the South Carolina Lowcountry (Columbia: U of So. Carolina Press, 1986).

                      Stavisky, Leonard Price, "The Negro Artisan in South Atlantic States, 1800-1860" (Ph. D. Dissertation, Columbia U., 1958)  and "Negro Craftsmanship in Early America" (AHR, Volume 54, 1949).

                      Thompson, Robert Farris, "African Influence on the Art of the United States" in William Ferris, ed., Afro-American Folk Art and Crafts. (Boston:  G.K. Hall & Co., 1983).  Other related works by Thompson include Face of the Gods:  Art and Altars of Africa and the Americas and Flash of the Spirit:  African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy (New York:  Random House, 1983).

                      Twining, Mary, "African-Afro-American Artistic Continuity" (JAS II, 1976) and "Harvesting and Heritage:  A Comparison  of Afro-American and African Basketry" in Southern Folklore Quarterly (XLII, 1976).

                      Wahlman, Maude Southwell, " African Symbolism in African-American Quilts,"  African Arts, Vol. XX, No, 1 (November, 1986), pp. 68-76 and p. 99;  and African American Quilts.  See Maude Southwell Wahlman [link] for an Extensive list of publications of interest!!!

                      Additional relevant on-line articles, resources and sites include:  

                      "Sankofa:  Honoring African-American Craft" by Ted Landsmark on "the first comprehensive traveling display honoring Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century African-American arts and crafts since 1978, when Georgetown University's John Michael Vlach curated "The Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts.'"

                      Smithsonian/Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture  (http://anacostia.si.edu/)

                      Smithsonian/Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (http://www.folklife.si.edu/index.html)

                      The Penn Center to which Gary referred:  http://www.penncenter.com/.

                      The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University, which has just moved to its new, more prominent location (article).  Link:  .http://library.temple.edu/collections/blockson/?bhcp=1

                      ****************

                      Another notable tradition that, I believe, has been developed especially in Louisiana is the "Spirit Jug".  Here is an example from the Harriet Tubman Museum in Macon Georgia:

                      http://www.tubmanmuseum.com/collections/folkart6.htm

                      Also at the Tubman Museum is this terra cotta plantation boundary marker:

                      Lee

                      On Mar 23, 2008, at 8:55 AM, Michael Conner wrote:

                      See:
                      Vlach, John Michael, and Cleveland Museum of Art. 1978. The Afro- 
                      American tradition in decorative arts. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of 
                      Art.
                      Vlach presents nine areas of expression:
                      Basketry
                      Musical instruments
                      Wood Carving
                      Quilting
                      Pottery
                      Boatbuilding
                      Blacksmithing
                      Architecture
                      Graveyard decoration

                      Michael



                    • theshamangallery
                      In regards to the Slave fetish I posted yesterday , I wrote - the piece was carved and collected in the south east USA , all indications point to late 19th/
                      Message 10 of 15 , Mar 24 6:28 AM
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                        In regards to the Slave fetish I posted yesterday ,
                        I wrote - "the piece was carved and collected in the
                        south east USA , all indications point to late 19th/ early 20th
                        century"
                        I am sorry group , I meant to write late 18th , early 19th century.
                        apparently My Sunday morning coffee had not kicked in yet!

                        The suggestion that the face mimics early African American cartoons
                        or propaganda is interesting and may have some validity , though it
                        iss hard to say , when I study it it also reminds me of hemba masks!

                        Just needed to correct that mistake - best -Todd
                      • William Klebous
                        Thanks, Lee, as always, for all the great reference material... Sorry, I m not sure how we are supposed to handle pictures currently, so I m just going to
                        Message 11 of 15 , Mar 24 11:58 PM
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                          Thanks, Lee, as always, for all the great reference
                          material...

                          Sorry, I'm not sure how we are supposed to handle
                          pictures currently, so I'm just going to attach one
                          as if I was sending it to a friend, and hope that
                          it gets through...*

                          I haven't quite captured the charm of this piece
                          with my camera, as I'm pressed for time...

                          An African-American Baby Doll, wood, nails, shell
                          buttons, circa 1920?, reportedly discovered in
                          rural South Carolina. I love how she's reaching
                          out to be picked up.

                          http://ph.groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/view/49ce?b=1

                          *Moderator's note: Photos included as attachments can be immediately viewed within the message forwarded to group members who receive individual emails but can generally not be viewed in Daily Digests. Also, embedded images seem to not be retained in archived messages over time. So, I have loaded the image into an album titled "William's Baby Doll" as well as including in the original message. Lee
                        • dwolf22@aol.com
                          Thanks Lee .... Having been born in Georgia I remember seeing these baskets ... you could find them being sold on the backroads of SC and Ga along with
                          Message 12 of 15 , Mar 27 12:34 PM
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                            Thanks Lee  .... Having been born in Georgia I remember seeing these baskets ... you could find them being sold on the backroads of SC and Ga along with boiled peanuts and bushels of butterbeans... tho my curiosity was more of what if any traditional (particularly wood) pieces might have been produced and survived here under the conditions of slavery.  You would think maybe there would be a mossi doll ... or an Ibeji ... or perhaps some slingshots if not power figures or ancestral figures that might have been produced in an attempt at spiritual survival especially from first generation slaves who carried these living traditions across the dark waters of their fate.
                             
                            I can't help but think that there must have been some moonlight carving going on as the connection of ancestors and spiritual sustenance would have been as crucial as food and water to some for survival.  Apparently the brutal oppressive/repressive circumstances effectively prevented such action. Not to say it wasn't tried ... tho one can imagine the punishment would be severe if caught. I suspect there must have been some attempts that went undetected ...tho they would have long sense decayed in the nooks and crannies of hidden places. No doubt any activity that encouraged community outside that of slavery was not allowed tho, on the other hand... perhaps these forms were in fact <if I may stretch the meaning of the term> terrigenous and would have been as equally displaced as those that sought comfort through them. Perhaps those <slaves> that were transported knew that their tribal ties were severed beyond any hope of rescue physically or spiritually and they simply did the best that they could to survive in such dire circumstances.
                             
                             Tribal culture is typically tied to place.. to the land that carries the blood and bones of ancestors, to creation myths - to places of power, of emergence... to stories passed down through collective memory inseparable from the earth that sustained the people in their journey through time and space. I suppose that is why 'conquered' tribes retained their tribal identity even while colonized while those taken away quickly lost their tribal identity.
                             
                            Thanks for your words Ed... I agree ... it seems odd to take such interest in a peoples 'art' and to have no interest in the culture itself.
                             
                            Thanks to Michael for reference to the Vlach work. Am curious to see what wood carving he has documented.
                             
                            To Todd .... Wow ... very interesting piece ... potentially a very rare and important piece as it marks a huge transition in the history of african culture and it's enslaved population. Interesting also that the cup? vessel? on the cover of the Vlach book also has this caricature quality. Makes sense in a way ... one wouldn't know that large lips were an identifying characteristic if everyone around you had large lips ....
                             
                            Thanks to all who responded.
                             
                            Daniel Wolf
                             




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