My trip to Charleston, South Carolina last September for the Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore exhibit, was more than I had hoped it would be. The exhibit at the Waterfront Gallery at City Park was beyond belief. There were over 100 quilts and cloth dolls in the show and the gallery was absolutely beautiful. I was so proud to have three of my pieces as part of the exhibit.
There were many events and celebrations over the three day opening. One of the most moving events for me was the celebration of Yemaya's Feast Day at sunset on Sullivan's Island. We were all asked to wear white and about 100 or more of us from all over the United States met at this historic place.
Sullivan's Island was a main port of entry and was the macabre equivalent of Ellis Island for the slaves that were brought from Africa to North America. It was where slaves, passengers and crew members who survived the Middle Passage were first quarantined from the general population. Infectious diseases like cholera, measles and smallpox were a hazard.
I've been to the East Coast a couple of times but I've never touched the Atlantic Ocean. It was a very spiritual experience. Our procession lead us from a pathway lined by ancient military canons, through a tall grassy field and to the beach when the sun was just setting. We were lead by a Yoruban priest who chanted while a drummer set the pace for our foot steps. Offerings of flowers and fruit were tossed into the ocean. We sang and watched the sun go down and just as we were leaving we could see a dolphin jumping in the water just a few yards from the shore.
I wanted design a group of dolls that reminded me of this beautiful procession on Sullivan's Island with all of us dressed in white. I've named it "When Women Gather" because this beautiful event and all of the other opening events was about creative women (a few men too) from all over the country who came together and traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to share their textile art, quilts and cloth dolls.