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Sweetgrass festival aims to preserve art form

Jun 21, 2010 12:07:00 AM - thestate.com
The two women didn't know each others' names, but they sat side-by-side talking, weaving and continuing a tradition that's hundreds of years old.

Barbara Carter grew up in Charleston but never learned how to make a sweetgrass basket. She took the art form for granted and moved away, but time gave her perspective and taught her understanding.

She realizes the Gullah Geechee people's culture and history is unique to the Lowcountry, and she wants to see it preserved. That's why she drove from Dallas to Waterfront Memorial Park in Mount Pleasant for the sixth annual Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival on Saturday, and that's how she found herself sitting next to Rosalee Coaxum, a basketmaker for more than six decades.

Carter told Coaxum she didn't know where to start, and Coaxum began to teach. They were the lessons passed down for generations through her family.

"There's a camaraderie and spirit here," Carter said. "It's like medicine. These women are warm and wonderful. It's like I've known them all my life."