Remnants of the Rice Culture: Agricultural History as Art

Historic Beaufort Foundation will present a photographic exhibit at the Verdier House Museum from October 20, 2016 – March 31, 2017. “Remnants of the Rice Culture: Agricultural History as Art” examines the Lowcountry’s rice fields and the history of their creation by slave labor through unique photographs by David Soliday. South Carolina Humanities supported this project with a Major Grant in September 2016.

The exhibit features David Soliday’s stunning aerial photography of the Carolina rice fields. This photographic documentation of the rice culture illustrates the skill and expertise of the enslaved West Africans who constructed the highly intelligent hydraulic systems of dikes and canals that connected the rice fields. The rice culture changed forever the geography of coastal Carolina and has also contributed significantly to the present day conservation of land and waterfowl. In the exhibit, art illustrates history and culture.

The exhibit will open on October 20, and monthly lectures and events will take place from November 2016 –March 2017 at the Verdier House Museum (801 Bay Street, Beaufort). On Monday, November 14, the artist and photographer David Soliday will give an introductory lecture about his work. Other proposed lecture topics include “The Reintroduction of Carolina Gold Rice,” “Historic Rice Production: The Tools, the Buildings, the Fields,” and “How an 18th Century Landscape Impacts Conservation in the 21st Century.”

The January lecture will be on the topic of “Conquering the Lowcountry: The Role of Enslaved West Africans in South Carolina’s Rice Culture,” presented by Dr. Michael A. Allen. It will be held Monday, January 23rd with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and the lecture from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. Dr.  Allen is the Community Partnership Specialist for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor with the National Park Service. He formerly worked at Fort Sumter National Monument and is now working on a Park Service study to tell the story of Reconstruction.

There will also be three “field sessions” related to the theme of rice culture, which will take place in the winter and spring of 2017. They cost $125 per person, which includes lunch. The first field session will take place on Saturday, January 21 and is a trip to Turnbridge Plantation (Hardeeville, SC) and Delta Plantation featuring scholars Dr. Richard Schulze Sr., Dr. Richard Schulze, Jr., and Glen Roberts speaking on “The Re-Introduction of Carolina Gold Rice.” The second field session will take place on Thursday, February 9 and is a trip to Cockfield Plantation (Green Pond, SC in Colleton County) featuring scholar Dr. Travis Folk speaking on “Historic Rice Production: The Tools, The Buildings, The Fields.” The third field session will take place on Wednesday, March 8 and is a trip to Nemours Plantation (Yemassee, SC in Beaufort County) and will feature presenter Dr. Ernie Wiggers speaking on “The Impact of 18th Century Rice Culture on 21st Century Conservation.

The mission of Historic Beaufort Foundation is to support the preservation, protection and presentation of sites and artifacts of historic, architectural and cultural interest throughout Beaufort County, South Carolina. Learn more.

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 22-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.

Image: David Soliday, Combahee-Tubman High