"Smithsonian documents MP basket makers"
Trip Start Nov 26, 2010
2Trip End Nov 27, 2010
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A new traveling exhibition that started at the Gibbes Museum in Charleston will be opening at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art from June 23 through November 28."Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art" details the African people's contribution of their art form: sweetgrass basket making.The exhibition is organized by the Museum for African Art in New York, in cooperation with Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston, McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina and the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association.In the fall of 2008, the debut exhibition opened at the Gibbes Museum and from there went to Cincinnati, Los Angeles and the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.The New York African Art Museum (which is slated to open in Spring 2011) will be the exhibition's final resting place, according to Thomasena Stokes- Marshall, Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival executive director."The exhibition is really significant because a good percentage (more than a third) of the baskets that are being displayed have been made and displayed by basket makers in Mount Pleasant and the East Cooper area," she said.Stokes- Marshall added that Lowcountry sweetgrass basket makers are featured in the videos. It is in these videos that they share their stories and show their techniques."Knowing that the sweetgrass baskets and its history is more than 300 years old and now to be able to capture and tell that story around the country, that is amazing- especially since there are so many threats to preserving the art form," Stokes-Marshall said.More than 200 baskets are featured. "There are baskets from West Africa which show the connection to local baskets here," she said.Today the basket is an important work of art and symbol for African-American identity. The exhibition documents the domestication of rice in West African, through the Transatlantic slave trade to the migration of African rice culture to America. Included is the history of the Carolina rice plantations and the contributions African people brought to America."Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art" is organized by the Museum for African Art in New York, in cooperation with Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston, McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina and the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association."Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art" has been supported, in part, by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the MetLife Foundation's Museums and Community Connections Program. The National Endowment for the Humanities honored "Grass Roots" with a "We the People—America's Historic Places" designation.Additional funding for the video components has been provided by the Henry and Sylvia Yaschik Foundation, the South Carolina Humanities Council and the South Carolina Arts Commission."The end result of the exhibition demonstrates the many collaborative efforts to bring together a wonderful end result," Stokes-Marshall said.Visit www.nmafa.si.edu/exhibits for more information about this exhibition.(Helen R. Hammond can be reached email@example.com.)