The fascinating and close-knit Gullah Geechee culture of the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina, which evolved in an almost timeless shell, with its own dialect and way of life, is still a mystery to most Americans. But that hasn’t stopped Dr. Jacquelyne Benton, an African American Studies professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, from trying to unlock the island secrets for landlocked Denverites, whom she leads on periodic tours of the islands under the auspices of the nonprofit Johnson Legacy, Inc. This time, however, Benton will bring the islands — and perhaps some enlightenment — to us. Her two-week exhibit, The Water Brought Us: A Passport to Africa in America, which includes three weekends of programming, opens today at RedLine Gallery with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. that features works by internationally known Gullah artist Jonathan Green and more.
The title of the series, Benton explains, comes from the legendary story of the Ibo Landing, in which a fierce shipload of ethnic Nigerians resisted enslavement by drowning themselves in the sea. “They were heard to be saying, ‘The water brought us,’ and then, ‘The water will take us way,’” Benton says. Its point, though, is to glorify the shadow of African culture as it has evolved and been handed down from parents to children living in the islands. To that end, Benton will present Gullah storyteller Carolyne “Jabulile” White tonight and a talk by Green next week; additional programs include a screening of Julie Dash’s Gullah film Daughters of the Dust, a limited-seating sweetgrass basket-making workshop, and separate concerts of spirituals and the lost art of ring shouting by the McIntosh County Shouters.
RedLine is at 2350 Arapahoe Street. Admission varies for each event, but a discounted all-event passport is available ($75 if purchased by today; $80 to $100 thereafter); e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for passes or visit redlineart.org for information
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Sept. 7. Continues through Sept. 22, 2012