Passed down from generation to generation since the 1700s, the sweetgrass basket craft is unique to the Lowcountry and represents one of the oldest West African art forms in America.
Along North Highway 17, sweetgrass basket makers set up roadside stands to sell their wares to tourists and locals alike. The exquisitely-fashioned baskets are a Lowcountry tradition—an American art with African origins. When West African slaves were brought to South Carolina, they brought with them the tradition of weaving baskets from grass with them.
Sweetgrass Basket Makers Highway
The art of weaving sweetgrass baskets has been passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter, through the Gullah community who descended from those West African slaves. Originally designed as a tool for rice production, the sweetgrass basket has evolved to a decorative art. Today, sweetgrass basket weaving remains an integral piece of the cultural fabric of Mount Pleasant. To mark the legacy and artistic contribution of the baskets and their creators, the seven-mile stretch of Highway 17 was designated the Sweetgrass Basket Makers Highway.
Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion
To learn more about the history and cultural legacy of sweetgrass baskets in the Lowcountry, visit the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Center at Memorial Waterfront Park. The open-air pavilion features local makers and sellers, alongside informational kiosks and panels that provide an in-depth look at the history of basketmaking and African arts in South Carolina.
Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival
Each June, the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival celebrates Gullah Geechee culture and history, while showcasing the largest array of sweetgrass baskets in the Lowcountry. In addition to basket making, the festival features Gullah storytelling and folklore; drumming, singing, and dancing; and a wide array of handcrafts and art.
For more information about the sweetgrass tradition in Mount Pleasant, please visit the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Association’s website: http://www.sweetgrass.org/