“Babylon Is Falling” describes the state of the art of Lowcountry basketry, a tradition brought to the colony of Carolina in the late seventeenth century by people from Africa, whose descendants are still making baskets today. The coiled grass basket, which began as a humble tool of rice production, is now recognized as the oldest and most prestigious emblem of African American culture in the nation. Yet while the basket makers have achieved fame as artists and their inventiveness and skill have never been higher, the tradition faces serious challenges. Rampant real estate development has rendered sweetgrass off limits and encroached on the land acquired by the forebears of the basket makers after the Civil War. The widening of Highway 17 N. is displacing the basket stands, which, since 1930, have provided makers direct access to their market. The temptations of modernity draw young people away from the pursuits of the older generation. The author asks: will the art of the basket and its role as a vessel of history and heritage appeal to an audience broad enough to insure its survival?


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pp. 98-124
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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