Preserving Gullah Culture – Rag Quilting Workshop and Presentation on Monday, February 2

Spartanburg Methodist College is pleased to welcome Sharon Cooper-Murray to campus on Monday, February 2 for two separate events, a hand’s-on rag quilting workshop and a presentation on this lost art by the Community Rag Quilting Preservation Initiative.

See Spartanburg Herald Journal Photo Gallery of workshop: http://www.goupstate.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Dato=20150202&Kategori=PHOTOS05&Lopenr=202009996&Ref=PH&pl=1

 

According to elderly Gullah women from Wadmalaw and Johns Island, SC, the textile tradition of rag quilting began during the antebellum period when women used feed and grain sacks along with rag strips to make quilts for warmth during inclement weather.This art form was passed from generation to generation.   Today many of the elderly practitioners of rag quilting have passed away and others are no longer physically able to tie the knots required during the rag quilting process.

Today we are faced with the possibility of this Gullah folk art tradition of rag quilting being lost.

The Community Rag Quilting Preservation Initiative seeks to continue the transmission of folk art skills from generation to generation, to promote this indigenous textile tradition within the tourist industry and to facilitate a textile cottage industry of handmade crafts.

SMC will be hosting a hand’s-on rag quilting workshop in the Buchheit Board Room, located within the Vassey Information Technology Center, at 4 pm on Monday, February 2. The public is invited and the event is free of charge.

Later that same day, at 7 pm the college will welcome Sharon Cooper-Murray to the stage of Gibbs Auditorium, located in Ellis Hall, for a presentation on the Gullah folk art tradition and the Rag Quilting Preservation Initiative.  This event is open to the public, and also free of charge.

Cooper-Murray is a native of Lake City, South Carolina, and a Speech and Drama graduate of Knoxville College, Knoxville, Tennessee. After graduating she traveled for a brief time trying decide where she what area to take up residence. It was then she was invited to Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina a small Sea Island southwest of Charleston and the home of the indigenous group known as the Gullah people. She was fascinated by their creole language and even more intrigued by their culture.

Cooper-Murray worked as an Educator for the Charleston County School District in the area of Remedial Reading. While teaching she was recruited by Rev. Dr. Willis T. Goodwin, founder of Rural Mission, Inc. an ecumenical/educational organization which provided community development programs for the Gullah people on the five sea islands known as the Gullah islands; James, Johns, Wadmalaw, Yonges and Edisto Island.   She served as the Development Officer responsible for fundraising and grant writing. The position afforded her the opportunity to work within Gullah community and that was the beginning of what became her lifelong passion for the Gullah culture.

By 1986 after years of research Cooper-Murray partnered with Frank L. Murray to established De Gullah Enna Pry, a heritage development organization designed to preserve, conserve and develop the Gullah Culture. Though the inclusion of the Gullah culture was very limited in the Hospitality/Tourism Industry she believed this rich and diverse culture would greatly enhance the lore of Charleston, S. C.  She wrote, directed and produced two theatrical productions, the 1992 “Don’t let um die Yah,” and the 1997 “Gullah, Rice and Cotton.” In 1993 she served as the Black History Coordinator at Middleton Place, the antebellum rice plantation founded in 1741, which immersed her in the lives of the West African slaves and the evolution of the Gullah Culture.

Today, Cooper-Murray is founder and President of Gullah Enna & E Sweet Pan & Ting, a manufacturing organization i.e. cottage industry specializing in Gullah fiber arts & crafts. The organizations philosophy and mission is to increase awareness of the Gullah culture and facilitate understanding of their way of life; language, music, arts and crafts.

Both events, the 4 pm workshop and the 7 pm presentation, are open to community and are free of charge.  For additional information, please contact Yvonne Harper, harpery@smcsc.edu or 864-266-7409.