It used to be the only way to purchase one of the unique, handmade baskets for the culture, was to physically go to markets in South Carolina. Artists relied on tourists to view their pieces, and some weavers told Granthshala that income was less than stable.
After the abolition of slavery, Gullah communities settled in remote villages around the coastal areas where, due to their relative isolation, they created strong sectarian ties and a unique culture that lasted for centuries.
Cayetano-Jefferson said her family has been creating pieces of art for more than 35 years and selling them at the market in downtown Charleston, and her family’s unique weaving style has been passed down through generations.
“I’ve been knitting baskets since I was about five or six years old. We still cut our stuff ourselves. We still dry it. We do everything from start to finish,” she said.
“We sell baskets because we want to honor our ancestors, and we don’t want to forget where we came from in the past and what people before us paid for us. We just take advantage of that. Wanting what is already natural.”
For the first time, their work was not dependent on tourists
“We’re really trying to enable well-known, but often financially disadvantaged, communities to showcase their work and build a presence online,” Dina Jean, Etsy’s senior manager of social innovation, told Granthshala.
“We see this as an opportunity to drive economic resources to communities by establishing a direct-to-consumer presence that can really help build a pipeline of long-term economic success for weavers, their families, and their communities.”
The company provided all the marketing needed for weavers to set up their shops and provided trainers who helped them understand how to build a site and manage it effectively with photos and customer service.
“We believe that crafts play an essential role in the economic and social well-being of a community. And in addition, to use that work as a source of income, manufacturers often share the history of their regions with their communities and their families. keep it in your work,” Jean said.
“We’re really excited for the work they’ve been able to accomplish, and we’re excited to include them in the coming holiday shopping season.”
“For the first time ever, some of these women are getting recognition they’ve never had before and only seeing admiration,” Caetano-Jefferson said. “Some of the women who come here are so excited that Californians want them to weave their baskets and that’s untrue.”
But beautiful baskets are not without their challenges.
Odds have slowed interest in the craft
The sweetgrass used in the baskets is native to the South, and Caetano-Jefferson said the harvest is harder now as some areas they have been going for decades are no longer accessible due to land purchases or development.
“My grandmother used to pull the grass, and we were still going to the exact same spot, but now, when we get there, there’s a fence and it’s private property—so we’re dealing with her here. , as far as continuing our craft is concerned,” she said.
Vera May Manigault, an eighth-generation weaver, also threatened wild animals such as snakes and wild boars for harvesting.
Also, similar to her daughter’s feelings about sharing sewing baskets with the next generation, Cayetano-Jefferson said the community is losing steam due to constraints.
“I feel like the community is losing the drive to do it themselves. The drive has been lost because of the constraints in weaving sweetgrass baskets. It’s a South Carolina state craft, but there’s no room for us to go and freely harvest, So the community itself is losing the drive to be able to get the products,” she said.
Weavers hope recognition will inspire the next generation
Cayetano-Jefferson’s daughter Chelsea Cayetano shares her family’s tradition while in college. Cayetano said he hopes the younger Gullah generation will see items online and be inspired to learn to sew their own baskets.
“I want to show and inform more young women and men that this is cool. It’s not an old lady’s job and only older women do it, and it’s not just for girls either,” she said . “There’s so much more that can come out of making a basket and you meet so many new people and you end up traveling because of it, I love that.”
All the women hope that the online platform can show the country and the world the beauty and love that is put in every basket.
“When someone looks at our products, I want them to think about how strong our culture is, because there have been so many shocks,” Caetano said. “It’s showing how strong our community is, and even if we fall, we get back up and we’re ten times better.”
Credit : www.cnn.com