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Geechee Kunda adds African structures

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POSTED: September 7, 2009 12:37 p.m.
Photo by Lauren Hunsberger/

Jim Bacote, left, and George Williams work on an African hut on Friday morning at the Geechee Kunda Cultural Arts Center in Riceboro. The project, which has taken almost two years to complete, will soon be open to the public.

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Beside the Geechee Kunda Cultural Arts Center, shaded by a large oak tree, sits a gray hut collaboratively built by members of the community and other friends and volunteers from across the world.
The center’s director, Jim Bacote, and local resident George Williams stand inside the structure, taking measurements for the roof as a gust of wind funnels through the open windows, providing some relief from the sun. The brief respite wasn’t a stroke of good luck; however, Bacote said he planned it that way.
“In Africa, their homes are totally built around the ecology,” said Bacote, who built his hut — a replica of a traditional African housing unit — and windows to line up with prevailing wind currents in the area. “We did it the old-fashioned way.”
Bacote is nearly finished with the structure, which he envisions to be a place where both Liberty County residents and travelers can experience authentic African culture and lifestyle. He expects the roof will be up within the next two weeks.
“This is a good way to show how things are there [in Africa],” he said, adding that African history has many significant ties to Liberty County. 
“It goes all the way
back to the origins of many people in the community,” he said.
Bacote and his group of workers, some of whom come from as far away as Ethiopia, used hand labor methods to build the hut, which upon completion, will be open to the public. He said he wants it to be a place where people can learn and relax.
“It’s built to promote calmness, intimacy and peace,” he explained.
Behind the hut sits another construction project, also meant to help teach and enlighten people about African art and culture. It’s a pole barn that will eventually become an education center, complete with a performance stage where audiences can enjoy a show or a brief nap.
The big red barn, which was built by hand, will be able to hold a few hundred people and withstand hurricanes. Bacote said it’s also relevant to African history because erecting structures was a skill learned during the slavery era.
“It’s a testament to the resiliency of not just Africa, but to the people of Liberty County,” Bacote said.
Bacote said once everything is complete, he’s looking forward to hosting educational and cultural programs on a larger scale.
 

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