By Luana M. Graves Sellars
Artwork by Gullah Sonja Griffin Evans
Gullah art is unique in that it not only represents the culture, but the story of a people. The Gullah culture is rich in African tradition and its art reflects strength and resilience through images that, like an African Giot, or storyteller, depict how life is or was.
The question is often asked why are some of the Gullah faces without features. As slaves, the Gullah were stripped of their personalities, but not their spirit. The faceless images represent Gullah people for their perseverance and will to survive, regardless of their individuality.
If your love for Gullah art draws you in, now is the time to bring the vibrant culture into your home and at the same time help the Gullah families who face the daily challenges of holding on to generational heirs property. Heirs property is land that has been handed from family member to family member, often without it being property deeded. The original purchaser, usually a former slave, did not have a will or was unable to deed the property to their descendants. The purchaser, more than 100+ years later, might have several, if not hundreds of heirs who have ownership rights towards the property, yet without a clear title. According to a 2006 report, since the end of the Civil War, within the Gullah Geechee Corridor, Gullah families have lost more than 14 million acres of family property and only slightly more than 1 million acres that were purchased by former slaves has remained in family hands.
All of the Gullah artwork either in print or painting, that are featured on Lowcountry Gullah is available for purchase with a portion of the proceeds going directly towards the preservation of the Gullah culture. To purchase artwork, click here for the Lowcountry Gullah Market.
The Artist | Sonja Griffin Evans
Internationally acclaimed Gullah Artist, Speaker and Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute Fellow, Sonja Griffin Evans was born and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina. A true product of the South called the Lowcountry, the area prides itself on its ability to preserve its culture and heritage. The Lowcountry has been an incredible influence on Sonja’s artwork, giving her inspiration and an uncanny ability to capture the beauty, spirituality and a pure representation of the Gullah Sea Island and African American culture.
As a prolific mixed media artist, Sonja incorporates tin, wood and other materials in her art, while using vibrant colors on canvas, which are indicative of what has been acknowledged as the traditional Gullah style. In both mediums, she is careful about how she expresses her culture, so that it is represented in its purest form.
Evans believes that everything that God has created is not only beautiful, but has a purpose and that nothing should be wasted. She further believes that she merely holds the paint brush and God creates the art.
Known for her ability to see the beauty in a variety of forms, she unveils alluring stories that each piece holds within them by creating a reflection of the deep spirituality of the people of African descent. With her unique use of color and perspectives within her work, Griffin Evans’ artwork is constantly evolving.
A highly sought after speaker and masterful storyteller, Evans is able to weave her art, culture, heritage, and history into an inspiring motivational experience that brings each piece to life; as she invokes powerful spiritual and cultural insights.
Selected as one of 150 artists from around the world, U.S., Italy, Brazil, Switzerland, Ukraine, Germany, and Ecuador (just to name a few) by the #1 Apple TV Lifestyle App, Loupe, the global streaming curated art gallery is available in 40 countries and streams in 80 countries. Sonja’s work has been exhibited internationally during a three city tour in France, including in Tour Saint Aubin, Angers France. A featured artist for the National Park Service, her work she was selected by the Westin Hilton Head Spa and Resort as a permanent display to commemorate Historic Mitchelville.
A frequent winner of prestigious awards, including one in 2013, where her gallery received the African Diaspora World Tourism Flame Keepers Award for honoring the culture and heritage of people of African descent. In addition, Sonja was also named an Honoree of the Mamie Till Mobley Woman of Courage Award, as well as an Onyx Award Nominee. As a strong advocate for the arts, Evans has been featured on numerous television and radio broadcasts, and publications; such as DuPont Registry, Southern Lady Magazine, Coastal Lifestyle Magazine, Upscale Magazine, Local Life Magazine, Hilton Head Monthly, From Imagining to Understanding the African American Experience and more.