Lavinia Nelson’s Basket Stand in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, 2006 by Brian Crockett
Last week we discussed the Black Banjo Gathering, and how those musicians were reclaiming the banjo as an African instrument while also celebrating how its role in American musics. The National Endowment for the Humanities, and their NEH On The Road program, are offering an exhibit that also celebrates a transatlantic cultural exchange: Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art. The exhibit’s next stop is the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. Here’s an introduction:
Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art traces the parallel histories of coiled basketry in Africa and America, and explores the contemporary evolution of an ancient craft in a global economy.Featuring baskets from the lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia, as well as from diverse regions of Africa including Senegal and South Africa, Grass Roots examines the origins of the African-American coiled basketry tradition on American shores, from the domestication of rice in Africa two millenia ago, through the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Carolina rice plantation, and then into the present day. Organized by the Museum for African Art in New York City and co-curated by Enid Schildkrout (Chief Curator, Museum for African Art) and Dale Rosengarten (Curator and Historian, College of Charleston), Grass Roots highlights the remarkable beauty of coiled basketry and shows how a utilitarian object can become both a masterwork of fine craft and a container of memory and collective history.