At the "Taste of Gullah" event on Hilton Head Island Saturday, Gullah locals celebrated their heritage through vibrant dancing, colorful artwork and heaping piles of food.
The event, held at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, is one of several in the monthlong Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration. Now in its 19th year, the celebration began as a way for native islanders to promote their businesses and preserve their culture.
Attendees divided their time listening to storytellers and watching performances on an outdoor stage, walking through a gallery show of Gullah art and loading up plates with Gullah staples like collard greens, okra gumbo and bread pudding.
"Everything was locally made with love by Gullah people," said Courtney Young, the marketing and media coordinator for the Gullah Celebration.
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Jack Bartley, a part-time Hilton Head resident, enjoyed a plate of okra that he said was flavorful and "spiced perfectly."
His friend, Hilton Head resident Rex Gale, eyed a serving of Hoppin' John (a peas and rice dish) before giving it a thumbs up.
"I've never had Hoppin' John before, so I had to figure out what it was first," he said. "But it's good."
Past the food line and inside the Arts Center's Walter Greer Gallery, crowds squeezed into the "De Aarts Ob We People" exhibit. Brightly colored paintings of marsh landscapes, men fishing and women doing everyday tasks like laundry were on display, as were sweet grass baskets.
Upstairs, both screenings of the documentary "Hilton Head Island Back in the Day: Through the Eyes of the Gullah Elders" were at capacity. Festival organizers added a third screening, which quickly filled up.
Carrie Hirsch, one of the producers of the documentary, was on hand to discuss the film after each showing. That people were clamoring to see it was a positive sign, she said.
"We are so excited because the point of the documentary is to bring awareness to Gullah culture."
The Gullah Celebration continues Feb. 13 with a Gullah Gospel night at the First Zion Ministry Baptist Church, followed by a two-day Arts, Crafts & Food Expo Feb. 14-15 at the Coastal Discovery Museum.