Mary Arnold Twining Baird Collection consists of baskets and quilts made by artisans from Georgia and South Carolina of Gullah culture, and Alabama. The works of art were influenced by West African traditions.
Bought to the Americas by African slaves, coil basketry has been practiced in the sea islands off the coast of the southeastern United States since the late 17th century. African slaves developed specialized practices and agriculture tools, including baskets to winnow rice, the Gullah region's cash crop. Contemporary Gullah basket weavers maintain the tradition with their sea island sweet grass, palmetto, and pine needle creations.
Mary Jane Manigault was born outside of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina on June 13, 1913. The area is referred to as Lowcountry because geographically it is mostly at or under sea level. It is also a vital region of Gullah culture. Manigault learned the tradition of coiled basket weaving from her parents at age 8.
Manigault's baskets have received great praise for their sculptural quality, design, and color. Though she does experiment with her designs, she prides herself on not over decorating her baskets to preserve the tradition. Manigualt suffered a stroke in December of 2000, but was noted as saying "I'm going to keep making baskets, as long as I can." She died in 2010.
Manigault was a renowned seagrass basket weaver and was designated as a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984 for her work.
Louise Jones, a basket weaver from Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, was the cousin of noted seagrass basket weaver Mary Jane Manigault.
Addie Mae Baron Finley, a quilt maker, lived in Alabama and was granddaughter of Mary Arnold Twining Baird.
Eva Cohen, a quilt maker, lived on John's Island, South Carolina in the Bohicket Road Community.
Irene Foreman, a basket maker and quilt maker, lived in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.
Mary Arnold Twining Baird is known for her study of the Sea Island Communities of Georgia and South Carolina, and their cultural ties to West African culture. She published numerous works based on her research. She was a professor of English and Folklore at Clark Atlanta University from 1991-2013.
African American artisans
Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum