Coiled Basket Making: A Skill Brought with Slaves From West Africa

0 Posted by - June 18, 2018 - BLACK ART, LATEST POSTS

Enslaved Africans did not travel into the new world without skills or intelligence. Many of them had skills  and were highly intelligent.that they used in. was first introduced to the Low country in the 17th century by Africans. Senegambia and Angola Congolesse regions of West Africa who were brought to the country to cultivate rice by the white planters also brought with them the skill of making baskets as well. The basket making was mainly on the Southeastern coast of the United States for a while. Too much surprise the men were the ones who were making the baskets for use on the plantation and for sale. Using marsh grass, or bulrush, slaves coiled sturdy, intricate work baskets called fanners. Fanners were used for winnowing, the process of tossing hulls into the air to separate the chaff from the rice. Other work baskets held vegetables, shellfish, and later, cotton. The basket making was usually not done year round, just as a seasonal chore.

Other plantations with enslaved Africans that could no longer work in the fields were allowed to make baskets. The baskets were used in the plantation households and in rice cultivation. The Civil War and Emancipation soon changed the transformation in sweet grass basket making. Later, after Emancipation, the Penn Center on St Helena Island near Beaufort began to teach industrial skills to newly freed blacks. Even then, basket making was taught to the men – not the women. However, eventually the women began making baskets, and they were making smaller baskets to store food and serving food that would be used in their households. Eventually the craft evolved to be an art form.  Just North of Charleston many Black families began making a large amount of baskets and selling them made of sweet grass.

By the 20th century, basket makers were sewing for mail order catalogues and gift shops owned by white businessmen, many of whom were from the Northeast. Merchants and middlemen modified the basket making tradition by buying baskets attractive to tourists and other consumers. Read more


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