Coastal residents and out-of-state visitors alike converged on Riceboro to learn about the Geechee culture Saturday through exhibits, demonstrations, performances and music.
The Geechee Kunda Cultural Arts Center and Museum’s periodic “Rice, Riddum ‘n’ Rime” event drew attendees from around the nation and across the ocean, but center founder and Geechee historian Jim Bacote wasn’t surprised by the diverse crowd.
“We have a couple new performers on tap. This is the first time for a lot of us working together, so it’s very, very exciting. We have people here from New York, Indiana, Illinois — even northwest Africa,” Bacote said. “The fish smells good, and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.”
The celebration, which started at noon, featured several performers, including storytellers, dancers, spoken-word artists, singer Juanita Tucker, whose soulful voice elicited gales of applause after each hymn and praise song she belted out, and a steel drummer known only as Bokii.
Tucker said she has performed at the Geechee Kunda Cultural Arts Center before and enjoys visiting.
“I would like to do it more,” she said. “We need to have more people come here to learn.”
Around the grounds, attendees tapped their feet to the music, enjoyed fried fish and chatted with demonstrators and crafters. Charlene Floyd, of Garden City, and Cathy Glover and her young grandson, Jacob Thrift, both of Jesup, staffed a table topped with gourds, corn-shuck dolls and hand-carved wooden dominoes. The trio talked with passersby about the many ways to use, decorate and clean gourds, which, Glover said, have been mainstays in many cultures for centuries.
Saturday marked Floyd and Glover’s first time setting up shop at Geechee Kunda, but they said they’ll return — and they hope others will as well.
“Everybody needs to come and learn. If you don’t know your history, you need to learn it, and then you need to come learn about your neighbors’ history,” Glover said.
Brunswick resident Vanessa Thomas said she drives up to Riceboro for every event the center hosts because the educational and entertainment opportunities make the trek worthwhile.
“It’s wonderful, entertaining and educational, and I enjoy it. There are outstanding performances. I tell people about it and hope the word spreads more,” Thomas said.
Bacote said the center staff and volunteers do expect to entertain bigger crowds in the future, which is why they’re planning to have a “Rice, Riddum ‘n’ Rime” event every two or three months from now on.
“We will cover new aspects of the Geechee culture with each event,” he said, “because one three-hour event just is not much time to cover everything.”