Columbia, SC – The Columbia Museum of Art (CMA) announces an exciting exhibition capturing Daufuskie Island when it was the last South Carolina sea island untouched by the outside world. Daufuskie Memories opens Friday, May 27, 2016, featuring more than 60 photographs taken by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe. From 1977-1982, Moutoussamy-Ashe vividly and poignantly captured African-American life on Daufuskie Island, where the Gullah lifestyle, traditions, and language were preserved because of the isolation of the island’s residents.
“Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe’s photographs of Daufuskie Island show us the power of art to preserve moments in time now lost to us,” says Chief Curator Will South. “Through Jeanne’s exquisite lens, we may visit the place and people that once inhabited an island that has, like all places, moved into a 21st-century world. Through her art, we may feel the rhythm and pulse of this bygone era and appreciate the beauty of Gullah life on Daufuskie.”
Moutoussamy-Ashe and her husband, tennis great Arthur Ashe, visited Charleston, South Carolina, on vacation in 1977. An acquaintance, Verta Mae Grosvenor, a native of Beaufort, told Moutoussamy-Ashe about Daufuskie Island and the importance of photographing the people and history that still existed there. The result was the artist’s hauntingly beautiful book, Daufuskie Life: Photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.
In the foreword to the 25th anniversary edition of this book, Roots author Alex Haley says, “The emotional reaction of an artist to what she saw, heard, and felt is why you and I can now hold in our hands the quite special evidence of Jeanne’s mastery of her profession that is so repetitively attended in this book for which the University of South Carolina Press has served as midwife.”
Daufuskie Memories is organized in the same way that her catalogue is, in four categories: people, place, everyday life, and spiritual grace. Each section reveals to us a different slice of life on Daufuskie Island. Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, in her collection of brilliant photographs, has documented a lost era, but at the same time has managed, as great artists do, to point to an unknown future.
The CMA has partnered with the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of South Carolina to exhibit items from the Pat Conroy Archive related to his time teaching on Daufuskie Island in 1969 and 1970. Conroy’s first book, The Water is Wide, is about that period in his life and the exhibition includes a handwritten manuscript of the book, letters, and diary entries from that time.
Moutoussamy-Ashe will be visiting the CMA on Thursday, June 2, to give talks on her work and to sign copies of Daufuskie Life as part of the CMA’s Membership Appreciation Day.Daufuskie Memories will be on view May 27 – August 7, 2016.
Visit columbiamuseum.org/exhibitions/daufuskie-memories for more information.