Respect for Heritage

Every second Sunday of the month, I visit my mother, Ruth, and attend church with her in Gardens Corner, South Carolina. The day begins watching her prepare a meal to be eaten following the church service. Invariably she prepares vegetables with rice dishes with ever changing ingredients which have been used by my Gullah ancestors for generations. The atmosphere of the home is filled with a magnificent aroma flowing from the stove throughout the house. While the meal is slowly cooking we attend the Huspah Baptist church. The choir often sings a cappella using a call and response manner so deep in memory and tradition stemming from rhythms used by the enslaved African and African Americans who created, lived, and died working the rice plantations of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida for more than 250 years.

The phenomenal ability of my ancestors from Africa and subsequently their African-American descendants to survive these conditions and create a rich and vibrant Gullah culture unique to America is most humbling.
Avery Institute
The phenomenal ability of my ancestors from Africa and subsequently their African-American descendants to survive these conditions and create a rich and vibrant Gullah culture unique to America is most humbling.
Charleston creek

Whenever I drive south from Charleston on Highway 17 or some of the surrounding back roads across Harriet Tubman Bridge or the Ace Basin, I encounter plantations that were created by my Gullah African ancestors that were captured in Africa and ultimately brought to our shores enslaved to build the empire of Carolina Gold Rice.   I often recognize the name of a given plantation and recall an elder from my own community telling me that my family came from this or that plantation and I am filled with a sense of pride. This pride is based on my knowledge of what it took to build, maintain, and work in the swampy mosquito-filled rice fields with diseases such as malaria, amoebiasis, cholera, and yellow fever.  The phenomenal ability of my ancestors from Africa and subsequently their African-American decedents to survive these conditions and create a rich and vibrant Gullah culture unique to America is most humbling.

 

Every time I approach the canvas to express my respect for my heritage and culture I strive to capture the magnificent legacy my ancestors left me and my family despite their enslavement, oppression, and horrific challenges they faced on a daily basis even after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.  I marvel how under such conditions they were able to share such incredible love with one another, maintain a sense of community, create an atmosphere of belonging, and instill in their children a sense of purpose and meaning in life. It is for these reasons I choose to paint my heritage not with angst but to celebrate the traditions, customs, and mores that convey a sense of space, privacy, dignity, purpose, family, love, and community.  Some of the paintings in this calendar reflect my attempt to capture the life of my people still living and working in rural South Carolina in their gardens, homes, fields, and communities. Images in some of the paintings portray the history of family sustenance rice as a reminder of my bridge to Africa and my ancestors.

Contributor

Jonathan Green

Jonathan Green is an internationally acclaimed artist and 1982 graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His thirty-eight year track record of creating art and extensive inclusions in museum collections and exhibitions throughout many countries has led to his being considered by numerous art critics and reviewers as one of our nation’s outstanding American artists. He is recognized for capturing the positive aspects of American and African American Southern Cultures, history, and traditions.