Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

Circle Unbroken By Margo Theis Raven - Pics by E.B. Lewis

In the sea islands off South Carolina and Georgia, an old woman teaches her granddaughter the intricate art of sewing sweet-grass baskets. It's a skill that goes back to the West Africa of four centuries ago, what is now Sierra Leone and Senegal. This eloquently written, resplendently illustrated book tells how the practitioners of that art endured enslavement and deportation to America, the Civil War, the coming of the 20th century and the social dislocations of World War II — all the while struggling to preserve their native traditions. Today sweet-grass baskets are sewn mostly for the tourist trade, but that hardly matters to the grandmother- narrator. The unbroken circle of the title is not only the structure of the baskets but also the continuity of a proud people and their culture — in the words of the grandmother, "the knot that ties us all together."