MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Sweetgrass baskets are a prominent fixture in Gullah Geechee culture and Saturday, the annual Sweetgrass Festival was held at the base of the Ravenel Bridge to highlight the art form’s rich history.
Honoring Gullah Geechee traditions and their impact on the Lowcountry.
“The Sweetgrass Festival started several years ago and the purpose of it is to bring some recognition and preservation to the sweetgrass basket makers,” Wallace Washington from the African American Settlement Community Historic Commission said.
Sweetgrass basket weaving started in Mount Please centuries ago.
“They brought the craft from Sierra Leone,” sweetgrass basket weaver Adeline Mazyck said, “and when they got here they didn’t have anything to work with, so they had to do the basket for storing and carrying stuff.”
The custom has been passed down for generations.
“My grandparents were basket makers,” Washington said, “my mother was a basket maker, my aunts are basket makers.”
“I am a fifth-generation weaver,” Lynette Youson said, “and I am now teaching the seventh, my grandkids.”
Now, the annual Sweetgrass Festival hopes to keep those traditions alive for centuries to come.
“There are some that feel as though,” Washington said, “it’s losing its authenticity, it’s losing its cultural significance and losing some of its importance.”
Basket weavers say their best creations come when they listen to the grass.
“My mom used to say, ‘It’ll talk to you,’” Youson said. “I’m like, ‘Mommy, baskets don’t talk to you.’ I said, ‘This is grass.’ But now, after 53 years of doing the artform, we start off saying we’re going to do one, but honey at the end we come up with something all together different.”
They enjoy the opportunity to share their work and culture with people across the world.
“It makes me feel great that a lot of people are still taking our artform in as something that is worthwhile to be shared and to have a piece of,” Youson said.