Although its origins are rooted in slave history of the South, the Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration held annually during the month of February was established in 1996 to serve as a unique cultural showcase for the Gullah people, their language, food, cultural customs, and crafts, dating back over 300 years and rooted in the culture of West African slaves brought to the coastal islands of the South.
The 19th annual celebration features the artwork of emerging artist local artist Sonnal Thompson. “Gullah culture is a way of life for native islanders on Hilton Head”, says Charles Young, Operations Manager of the Native Islander Business and Community Affairs Association, the parent organization of the Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration. “Sonnal Thompson’s ‘Morning Catch’ is an relatable depiction of Gullah men, right here on Hilton Head, fishing for today’s dinner or stock the freezer for later. The real imagery is something that our annual event hopes to leave as a positive impression on of Gullah culture for our patrons and visiting friends.”
In addition to attending the annual Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration, be sure to check out the other Gullah heritage sites nearby, including: Mitchelville – the first freed Negro township, Gullah Heritage Trail, Ibile Indigo House – a working studio where visitors learn the tradition of West African indigo-dye processes and products, Zion Chapel of Ease – Hilton Head’s oldest cemetery and Queen Chapel AME Church – established in 1860 as a “praise house” for Pope Plantation slaves.
For more information, visit the festival’s official website at www.gullahcelebration.com.
Hilton Head Island’s Gullah Celebration
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Map & Driving Directions
(1) The original “Gullah” were African slaves who were shipped across the Atlantic in the 19th century from West Africa to work the cotton plantations on isolated sea islands and marsh areas between Wilmington, N.C., and Jacksonville, Florida. Out of this slavery was born a unique culture that is now known as Gullah. Although commonly associated with the language of these West African immigrants, the essence of Gullah encompasses the struggle, spirituality, perseverance and tradition of the people. The modern day Gullah subscribe to high religion and the celebration of spiritual redemption in leading their daily lives. The culture is a thriving mix of language, folktales and superstition that has shaped generations of families who live on Hilton Head Island and in the Low Country today.