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Get to Know Gullah at One of These Fun Festivals

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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Proud of their heritage and the West African lifestyle they have preserved through the generations, South Carolina’s Gullah celebrate each year with an extraordinary display of cultural riches presented in festivals and shows held all along the coast.


Open to the public, these events offer visitors a fantastic opportunity to learn about the music, folk arts, dance, food and history of the Gullah.


Plan your next South Carolina vacation to catch one of these festivals held throughout the year:


Gullah Art Exhibit in Murrells Inlet. Each January and February, Brookgreen Gardens hosts an art exhibition that focuses on the experience and lifestyle of Gullah and other cultures of the African Diaspora. The artwork includes paintings created from collages, oils and watercolors, as well as textiles, batik, sculptures, sweetgrass baskets, carvings, photographs and prints. The exhibit is on display in the Wall Lowcountry Center, open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration.The month-long February festival includes more than a dozen events designed to introduce visitors to the Gullah people and their history on Hilton Head Island. The impressive schedule of programs includes the annual Arts Ob We People exhibition and sale, Gullah Heritage Music Series, A Taste of Gullah, Ol’ Fashioned Gullah Breakfast and The Gullah Market, an arts, food and crafts expo. 


The Original Gullah Festival in Beaufort. Held Memorial Day weekend, the three-day festival showcases South Carolina’s rich Gullah/Geechee heritage and the role Beaufort played in the reconstruction of the South. One of the highlights of the weekend event is The Gullah Marketplace, featuring unique Gullah crafts and authentic cuisine. The festivities also include historical workshops, a fine arts exhibit, demonstrations and an array of musical performances. 


Gullah/Geechee Nation International Music & Movement Festival in Charleston. Gullah/Geechee artists present the stories, music and crafts handed down from their enslaved West African ancestors brought to the Lowcountry in the 17th and 18th centuries to work on rice and cotton plantations. Event highlights include a performance by African dancers and drummers, Gullah/Geechee cuisine and worship services at local congregations, including Mother Emmanuel AME Church.


Gullah/Geechee Seafood Festival and Famlee Day on Hunting Island. Enjoy fresh-from-the-water seafood, along with music, crafts, cultural presentations and interactive educational activities at this family-friendly October event sponsored by the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association, St. Helena Community Market and All Mobile Productions. Bring your fishing and beach gear for an afternoon of seaside fun.


Penn Center Heritage Days Celebration on St. Helena Island. This annual three-day cultural event takes place the second weekend of November at the National Historic Landmark that served as the first school for freed African slaves and their descendants. The cultural lineup includes sweetgrass basket and net weaving demonstrations, Gullah storytellers and re-enactors, singers, African drummers and dancers, a craft fair, parade, fish fry and old school jam. 


Sea Island Holiday Celebration. The centerpiece of this yuletide event, held each December in historic Beaufort, is the rousing original musical, “Gullah Kinfolk Christmas Wish…Freedom Comin” at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort Center for the Arts. Other weekend events include Gullah Reconstruction Tours, A Taste of Gullah Christmas Buffet with artist showcase, vendor’s marketplace and Christmas variety show, Christmas High Tea and Storytelling, Gullah Jazz Café Christmas Dinner Theater and Gullah Soul Food Buffet.

Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.