"DAUFUSKIE ISLAND" PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEANNE MOUTOUSSAMY-ASHE
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Mother’s Day is celebrated in many different ways and on different days around the world. The proclamation for this day was inspired by activist Julia Ward Howe; and the first Mother's Day was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia on May 10, 1908.
The second Sunday in May marks the day mothers are honored in the U.S. What do you give a mom who has everything? Bottles of perfume clutter her bathroom vanity ... unworn outifts hang in her closet. So instead of purchasing a different version of the same old thing this year, surprise her with a good book.
Books make great gifts for moms, and I highly recommend "Daufuskie Island," originally published in 1982 by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe. This visual diary of sorts offers a 25th Anniversary Edition of stunning photographs that tell a unique story through the powerful lens of a camera.
Alex Haley, author of "Roots: The Saga of an American Family," penned an eloquent foreword for this work of art; and he recalled that Mrs. H.A. White, an 80-year-old resident, told Ashe that Daufuskie Island, her childhood home, was soon to be transformed into a resort. The Depression advanced inevitable destruction as investors purchased land from dejected residents of the island.
Ashe takes the plight of these proud residents to heart and she visually documents the descendants of freed slaves living on Daufuskie Island. While visiting this residential island from 1977 to 1981, Ashe, a photographer and an activist, snaps pictures of islanders in their intimate surroundings.
Black-and-white photographs depict inhabitants of a sea island located between the southernmost tip of Hilton Head, S.C., and the entrance to the river of Savannah, Ga.
Beautiful subjects exhibit dignity and pride, despite faces weathered by time and old homes showing peeling paint and decaying porches. And inside these shacks, Ashe reveals that the kitchen is a woman's pride, despite outdated appliances. Mason jars line shelves and a simple table doubles as a storage space for pots and pans. Nourishment includes crabs that are cleaned, boiled and consumed in the Gullah tradition.
A scrub board with clothes is immersed in a tub of soapy water - this simple image illustrates the laid-back lifestyle on Daufuskie Island. Ashe skillfully captures the beauty of scrubbing clothes, a back-breaking task. Nearby, black girls play with white dolls, a stark contrast to their ethnic environment.
One of many interesting photos depicts the dark and intense face of a well-dressed boy; but in the background and barely noticeable, a weary woman sits with her eyes shut. She is thankful for an end-of-the-day reprieve.
Ashe preserves a community through documentation that would otherwise be lost in the rubble. Graphic photos bleed with humanity and southeastern traditions. The most exciting element of her photography is that it entices readers to create their own stories about Daufuskie Island. Travel to South Carolina's coastal region where the island of paradise has changed dramatically. Inhabitants are scarce, but the ghosts of a Gullah culture remain.
A GREAT BOOK GIFT FOR MOM
Author: Photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe
Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
Publication Date: January 2008 (reissued)
Listen to an excerpt from Daufuskie Island
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"The Week's Most Talked About Book" is a weekly book review and literary criticism column that publishes every Friday. Selected titles are based on popularity, public opinion, research and observation. Questions, comments and suggestions should be sent to book lover and columnist Karla Mass at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is a content producer for McClatchy Interactive.