A part of many students’ nostalgia for the 1990s will become tangible tonight in Fowler Hall. Two familiar faces are bringing an equally a familiar message.
Ron and Natalie Daise, married in 1985, were the hosts of Nick Jr.’s “Gullah Gullah Island” and are touring behind a new show – “Dream Weaving: Gullah Stories and Songs.” The show, booked by the Black Cultural Center, promises plenty of folk music, folk dancing and folklore of the sea-side southeast African-American Gullah culture, just as their old show did. This time, however, do not expect a show only for children.
Jasmine Morris, a senior in the College of Engineering and student coordinator of the BCC’s Haraka Writers, spoke excitedly of working with people who were once mainstays of her childhood.
“First and foremost, the two (hosts) that are coming are favorites of mine from a childhood show called ‘Gullah Gullah Island,’” Morris said. “I know a lot of people back then enjoyed watching the show (and) didn’t even know they were learning about this culture.”
“Gullah Gullah Island” was an award-winning children’s show on Nick Jr. from 1994-98. It starred Binyah Binyah, a yellow tadpole, who lived with an African American family headed by the Daises. Some may be a little too young to remember, but many students won’t be able to forget the vividly colored sets, infectious sing-alongs, unique character accents and quirky humor that defined the show and introduced millions of children to an overlooked but centuries-old branch of African American culture.
The Gullah culture exists on the rice plantation islands of South Carolina and southern Georgia, where slaves from Sierra Leone were taken to work at because of their knowledge of rice farming. Because bridges were not built to these islands until the mid 20th century, their culture remained isolated and free to develop on its own. It is one of the most well-preserved African American cultures, even with its own language, a mixture of English and West African dialects – much like Creole is to French.
Just as the TV show was based upon a model of “call-and-response” taken from Gullah culture, attendees can expect a large level of audience involvement at tonight’s show. Renee Thomas, director of the Black Cultural Center, had no doubts that the nature of Gullah culture assured that.
“The Gullah Culture is a very interactive culture,” Thomas said. “I imagine there will be a great level of audience participation.”
This presentation is a part of their annual Fall Cultural Arts Series. The series this season contains an ongoing focus on Gullah culture. Visit www.purdue.edu/bcc/artseries.html for a list of events.
For those interested in a deeper exploration of Gullah art, Ron Daise will be conducting a choral master class, “Down by the Riverside & Other Spirituals,” at 2 p.m. today at the Black Cultural Center. Attendees should be prepared to sing and move.
“Dream Weaving” will begin at 7 p.m. tonight in Fowler Hall and is free to the public.