Grass Roots – African Origins of an American Art explores the impact of African coiled basket making on aspects of economic development in the American South, as well as the present-day environmental and sociological threats to the communities who create this art form.
Grass Roots – African Origins of an American Art provides the opportunity to engage with diverse range of artifacts, including baskets, basket-making tools and historic rice cultivation artifacts. Featuring baskets from the low country of South Carolina and Georgia as well as from diverse regions of Africa, the exhibition documents the production of coiled baskets from their use in the domestication of rice in Africa, through the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the Carolina rice plantation, and to the present day. It highlights the remarkable beauty of coiled basketry and shows how the market basket can be viewed simultaneously as a work of art, object of use, and container of memory. In this context, the humble but beautifully crafted coiled basket, made in Africa and the southern United States, becomes a vehicle for learning about creativity and artistry characteristic of Africans in America from the 17th century to the present.
This exhibition has been made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and brought to you by Mid-America Arts Alliance. Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art was organized by the Museum for African Art in New York City in collaboration with the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in Charleston, SC. It was co-curated by Chief Curator Enid Schildkrout, Museum for African Art, and curator and historian Dale Rosengarten, College of Charleston.