Here we are again, the writers and illustrators who have come together for this year’s Southern Sampler Artists Colony, on Morris Island with Captain Anton DuMars and Sharon Cooper-Murray, aka The Gullah Lady. Anton has stayed with his boat and Sharon has taken us on a walk along the shore and is teaching us something many little Gullah children once knew how to do: make dolls with little twists of yarn.
The Gullah culture developed in the southeast along the coast from North Carolina to Florida in the late sixteenth century as the slave trade brought West Africans and their ways to these shores. Those beliefs are still a rich and vital part of the mix in the South Carolina Low Country. Some of those beliefs include “boo hags” and “haints” and other curiously transformed denizens of African shamanism.
Of course, zombie-loving author that I am, I was moved to shake my indigo twist doll and extemporize in my own spooky sing-song a little chant that emphasizes the scarier aspects of this kind of doll-making. But this twist doll spell has a special twist—one that anyone confronted with the light/dark nature of humanity might be wise to remember.
—Linda Watanabe McFerrin