The Deep Roots of the Gullah Geechee

We’re frequently asked if we’re a part of the Gullah Geechee People. Most of us are a part of the Wolof tribe in Senegal, West Africa, but the Gullah Geechee People are connected to West Africa and have a vibrant and beautiful culture. 

Residing primarily in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, Gullah Geechee people are descendants of Africans who came to the US as slaves. Despite that, they were able to retain and pass on their weaving skills to future generations. They have their own distinct music and even a language that is the “only distinctly African creole language in the United States and it has influenced traditional Southern vocabulary and speech patterns (source).” 

Because of their roots in West Africa, their weaving style is similar to the Wolof tribes, and they create beautiful vessels that keep their traditions alive. Baskets were made to be used in rice fields and evolved into functional baskets to be used in the home (source), from breadbaskets to hotplates and lidded jars that are still being made today. 

We’re reminded of a line in a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” It’s a reminder that even though the Gullah Geechee were stolen from their ancestral land, they held onto their craftsmanship and pieces of their heritage that bring joy and a sense of belonging to their culture. 

And like many younger generations, new weavers are putting a spin on their centuries-old techniques, adding different kinds of loops and knots to their works. And the Gullah Geechee are teaching even the newest members their generations old skills. 

While we’re not part of the Gullah Geechee, we’re proud to have similar roots that will never be reached by the frost. 

Photo credit: Charleston CVB