Gullah Museum in Pawleys Island closes
A landmark in Pawleys Island for almost 15 years, which has become a local epicenter for the Gullah culture, has closed.
The Gullah O’oman Museum and Gallery will no longer be located on the corner of Waverly and Petigru roads.
Owners Andrew and Bunny Rodrigues say they hope to open again soon — in another location, yet to be determined.
Vermelle “Bunny” Smith Rodrigues said the owner of the building asked them to move out recently and they lost the lease.
“This has been such a shock for us,” Bunny Rodrigues said. “Hopefully we can find a new place that is reasonable.”
Along with Gullah artifacts, hand-crafted dolls and toys, books, and artwork, the museum also displayed story quilts created by Bunny Rodrigues and her friends.
Her most notable quilts include one showing the history of enslaved Africans and another created in honor of first lady Michelle Obama, who has roots in Georgetown County.
The first quilt is now displayed with other cultural art at the embassy in Luanda, Angola, Africa’s capital and largest city.
The second quilt, which depicts scenes from Michelle Obama’s life and the life of her family members, was part of a special inaugural exhibit in Washington, D.C., in 2008. It was also part of the 2013 inauguration parade for President Barack Obama.
Jo Ann Thompson, a special services teacher at Waccamaw Elementary School, has known the Rodrigueses since they opened the Gullah O’oman Museum.
Bunny Rodrigues has visited her class on several occasions to share Gullah history. Thompson’s students even created a miniature version of the Michelle Obama quilt. She said that the closing of the museum, which she described as a jewel, is a “loss for the community.”
“It was always good to go there and find out about your roots, about what being Gullah is all about,” Thompson said. “They have always had a passion and a joy to share their knowledge and they will be dearly missed in that location.”
She said she hopes the Rodrigueses can find a place close to their former location.
“There is so much new coming in, it was nice to be able to go there and discover something that has always been here,” Thompson said.
“Now that it is gone, who is going to do that?”
She added that she hopes the community will come together to help the Rodrigueses find a new place for their museum.
Anne Potterfield, a long-time friend of the Rodrigueses, said she will miss the former museum.
“I think it was a wonderful place, located in the area where it should be,” Potterfield said.
“I hope they’ll be able to keep it at least near there because it is just so important for us to keep things where they need to be.”
She said it is also important for us to keep track of all of our history.
“I am 75 years old and I have learned about many things, but nothing has been as real to me as Bunny has made the Gullah culture for me,” Potterfield said.
“It’s enriched my life and I think anybody who cares to listen, or has the opportunity to listen, I think it does that for them too.”
By Clayton Stairs
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