A craft, a treasure, a legacy preserved
Sweetgrass baskets are coiled baskets “sewed” by African Americans who have preserved and cherished their tradition of creating these baskets from native grasses. The craft was brought to these shores during slavery times in the hearts, hands, and minds of those who were enslaved on rice growing farms in the area. This type of coiled basket was used in Sierra Leone and nations on the rice coast in Africa.
Passing the craft from generation to generation, it has been protected and is an artform native to the Gullah Geeche people. People gather bullrush from the marshes and estuaries. It is then used to create these works of art. Strips of palmetto frond are used to bind the coils one to another. Sometimes the needles of long-leaf pines are used to give contrasting color.
The Smithsonian Museum holds many examples of this artform in their collection. Listen to esteemed artist Mary Jackson as she tells us about them.
In the Mount Pleasant area, you’ll find sweetgrass basket artisans’ stands along Highway 17 in the town. Check out this post from the town about this cherished artform.
Watch this film to learn from these artisans more about this incredible art form.