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Discover the stories of SC’s Daufuskie Island at new exhibit

An Old Woman Sitting at a Table in Her Home, part of the new Daufuskie Memories exhibit.
An Old Woman Sitting at a Table in Her Home, part of the new Daufuskie Memories exhibit. Provided photo

Before it was a resort, Daufuskie Island was an isolated sea island untouched by the outside world.

The island, with its rich Gullah history, received some attention when author Pat Conroy chronicled his time teaching there in “The Water is Wide.”

The Columbia Museum of Art’s exhibit, Daufuskie Memories, features more than 60 photographs of the island and its people taken by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.

“What’s amazing about this exhibit is that it is a South Carolina story,” said Joelle Ryan-Cook, deputy director/director of external affairs for the Columbia Museum of Art.

From 1977–1982, Moutoussamy-Ashe, widow of tennis great Arthur Ashe, photographed African-American life on Daufuskie Island, where the Gullah lifestyle, traditions, and language were preserved because of the isolation of the island’s residents.

“Jeanne was there when it was still untouched,” Ryan-Cook says. “She met the members of the community and the people trusted her. She touches on the history of people, and the history of place.”

Moutoussamy-Ashe will be at the Columbia Museum of Art today for several events, some available only to museum members and others to the public as well.

“Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe’s photographs of Daufuskie Island show us the power of art to preserve moments in time now lost to us,” Chief Curator Will South says. “Through Jeanne’s exquisite lens, we may visit the place and people that once inhabited an island that has, like all places, moved into a 21st-century world. Through her art, we may feel the rhythm and pulse of this bygone era and appreciate the beauty of Gullah life on Daufuskie.”

Moutoussamy-Ashe will give a lecture, followed by a book signing, at noon that is open to the public. Her book, “Daufuskie Island: Photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe” is available in the museum gift shop.

There will be another lecture at 6:30 p.m. It is also open to the public. Space is limited, and patrons are encouraged to register online at https://www.columbiamuseum.org/happenings/lecture-and-book-signing-daufuskie-memories-artists-jeanne-moutoussamy-ashe.

Lezlie Patterson, Special to The State