Interested visitors attended the annual Juneteenth event at the Telfair Museum’s Jepson Center on Saturday to celebrate culture and history. Attendees enjoyed a variety of art vendors, musical performances and informative talks. Patricia Sabree, the featured artist at the Juneteenth event, presented her paintings and gave insight into her historical influences. “This is called Gullah,” Sabree said. “Gullah is not only a people, it is also a language. It is a 400 year old culture derived from west Africa to the coastal areas. Those coastal areas are Savannah, North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Virginia and also New Orleans. When you see the art work, it is very colorful and bold. They tell a story and connect to the spirit.” Sabree’s paintings reflect Gullah and coastal culture from a positive and uplifting perspective. “When seeing it for the first time, many people have said that they see so much happiness, joy and love in the art work. Another name for Gullah art is happy art and the happiness stems from the fact that no matter what we were going through, the spirit of the people could not be broken or shaken; it resonates,” Sabree said. In addition to Sabree, there were other black artists displaying their work and providing historical information to attendees.
Gregory Grant, a historian and basket sower, displayed African art in the form of traditional baskets. Grant spoke to an audience of art enthusiast and told them about the history of art that survived the Middle Passage. “The sweet grass baskets as we do it today is probably one of four of the oldest arts and crafts to survive the Middle Passage,” Grant said. Basket making, wood carving, net making and metal smithing are four art forms that people of African descent brought with them to the Americas. The process of creating baskets survived because people of west African descent that were brought to America to work in rice fields would use the husk to create baskets and make their work easier, Grant told his audience. Other than visual art, museum visitors had the opportunity to experience on-stage storytelling, dance performances and listen to choir songs performed by the men of St. John Baptist Church. Vaughnette Goode-Walker, an on-stage storyteller, encouraged the crowd to celebrate the history Juneteenth. “This year we are celebrating the history of the black church,” Goode said. “We are bridging a gap of the diaspora. Our theme has been the black church. The black church ties into everything. It was the base of freedom. It was the only place we could go and be ourselves.” The Juneteenth event offered historical knowledge, art and activities for children. The community event takes place every June at the Jepson Center.