The Gullah tradition of creating coiled grass baskets is a craft that has been handed down from generation to generation. Instead of weaving the baskets, a needle made from a spoon handle, bone or nail is used to sew natural materials together. The most commonly used materials are sweetgrass, palmetto leaves, longleaf pine needles and a marsh grass called black rush.
"Fannah" or fanner baskets made this way were used to process rice on the plantations. A person would fan rice by tossing it in the air to separate the chaff from the hull. West Africans still use these large, round, shallow baskets when farming rice the old way.
A basketmaker at the Charleston market.Sweetgrass basketry is a recognized art form that continues today.
Baskets are made in a variety of shapes and sizes that are unique to the style of the family making them. Visitors can watch women make baskets at the Charleston Market or on the nearby Sea Islands.
ABOVE VIDEO: Mary Jane Bennett shows how to make sweetgrass baskets.
Gullah (gul.lah) n. - one of a group of people of African ancestry that live in the Sea Islands and coastal areas of South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida; the creolized language of the Gullahs, based on English and several other African languages and spoken in Sea Island communities.
coiled (coiled) adj. - an African technique for making baskets; a coil of fibers is sewn together by hand to make a basket or container.
sweetgrass (sweet.grass) n. - a long-stemmed plant that grows near the ocean and is used to make baskets; the development of the Sea Islands has depleted the supply of sweetgrass.
sweetgrass basket (sweet.grass bas.ket) n. - a coiled, handmade basket made of sweetgrass.
fanner (fan.ner) n. - a large flat basket used to toss threshed rice in the air so that the wind blows away the chaff, leaving behind the heavier grains of rice.
chaff (chaff) n. - lightweight, dry coverings that are separated from the rice grain during threshing.
Sea Islands (sea is.lands) - a group of islands off the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and North Florida.