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Sweetgrass Festival Features Crafts, Music and Radiant Homage to Cultural Heritage
Published:
6/8/2016 4:24:26 PM


Chaquis Maliq. Photo: El-Shamesh Photography
 

Geechee clothing on display. Photo: Damion Smalls
 

Sweetgrass baskets made by William Rouse. Photo: Damion Smalls
 
By Damion Smalls


Mt. Pleasant’s Waterfront Park played host to the 2016 iteration of the annual Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival on Saturday, June 4. The free event, open to all ages, was a full day of education and entertainment that celebrated the Gullah-Geechee heritage which fostered the importance of the native Black community’s customs to the cultural history of Charleston and the southeast United States.
 
To be expected, sweetgrass baskets were in abundance and for sale by numerous makers. Held from noon to 7 pm, those in attendance throughout the day braved the near triple digit heat index to participate in the 12th edition of a preservation of a sacred local ancestry that continues to influence the city despite Charleston’s rapid growth in recent years.
  
In addition to sweetgrass baskets, vendors offered reading materials, West African clothing, jewelry and various Gullah-Geechee collectibles. Food for sale at the well-groomed park consisted of crowd pleasers such as barbeque ribs, alligator bites, fried fish & shrimp, boiled legumes from Charleston legend Tony the Peanut Man, Gullah rice, chicken wings and shaved ice.
 
A list of performers at the festival, which varied from singers, storytellers and dancers, included Jasmine McCray, the Imani Milele Children's Choir, Brian Birchfield, Bill DuPont, Gloria Barr-Ford, Divine Harmony, Secret Band, Adande African Drummers & Dancers, Adande Drummers & Dancers and the Imani Milele Children’s Choir of Uganda.
 
Artist Chaquis Maliq, “The 1 Woman Band”, also took to the stage for an applauded set in the afternoon. A relative newcomer to the area, Maliq is originally from San Francisco and lived in Baltimore before landing in Charleston, which is a part of her journey, according to the musician. “Music has always been with me,” confesses Maliq.
 
Her style has been described as ‘EccentroSoul’, but she plays free from genre labels and has carved her own path with sensual melodies that speak to her mood of the time. Maliq’s harmonies has led to “nothing but love” from the local community, says the artist. The humble, yet assertive nature within her shines through her music; a pleasant attribute from Maliq’s gracious personality.   
 
As the name implies, Chaquis plays all of her instruments herself. A self-taught guitar player, the singer-songwriter is the total package of authenticity and bold expression. Tracks like “Music in Me”, “We Got Love” and “Tired of Being” showcase her eclectic talent with uncanny vocals and beats. In a display of her connection to her craft, she named her guitar “Mr. Maliq”.
 
Follow Chaquis Maliq on her musical journey on chaquismaliq.com, Twitter (@chaquismaliq), Instagram (@chaquismaliq), youtube.com/chaquismaliq, chaquismaliq.bandcamp.com, facebook.com/chaquismaliqmusic and soundcloud.com/chaquismaliqmusic.  
 
A Gullah Geechee seminar preceded the festival in the Cooper River Room on the park’s grounds. Hosted by the East Cooper Civic Club, the mid-morning session housed roundtable discussions on issues that are currently affecting the traditionally Black communities along the Gullah Geechee Culture Heritage Corridor in Mt. Pleasant, such as gentrification and health care disparities.

Connections were made during this networking opportunity with dialogue interaction, facilitated availability of vital resources and generational mingling. Visit gullahgeecheecorridor.org to learn more about about the area and its extraordinary people.
 

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