Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991) is a groundbreaking and timeless film. It was the first feature film directed by an African-American woman distributed theatrically in the United States. It was a visual and artistic triumph, earning a Best Cinematography award at Sundance for Director of Photography Arthur Jafa. It inspired countless other artists and works, including Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
Dash created visual poetry that is both vast in scope and intimate in detail through the story of the Gullah community, African American inhabitants of the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia, and their migration to the mainland of the United States from their ancestral lands.
In this tale largely driven by the women of the Peazant family, Dash explores how African-American families persisted against slavery, and tried to be true to their memories, while reckoning with preserving a culture facing oblivion and erasure. What do we owe those who came before us? How do we honor our ancestors while forging a new identity? Drawing inspiration from her own Gullah roots and her father’s migration to New York, Dash lets the story “unravel and reveal itself in a way in which an African Gullah would tell the story, because that’s part of our tradition.” It is a story I think you might also find a deep connection to.
What you’ll find in this episode: an examination of colors as symbols, three religious perspectives, and whether we would stay or leave the island.
Check out Daughters of the Dust on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of All About My Mother.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Cane River.
Beyoncé’s Lemonade and the film’s re-release.
The Gullah/Geechee Heritage Corridor at NPS.