introduction
Gullah/ Geechee Women
In the fi lm Daughters of the Dust,1 Julie Dash captures the struggles of
the Peazant family, three generations of lowcountry women who,
at the turn of the twentieth century, consider whether they should
relocate from the Sea Islands of South Carolina to the “mainland.”
While elder members of the family are not in favor of relocating,
younger members support the move inland. Flashbacks in the fi lm
reveal the longstanding importance of ancestral communication,
folk traditions, faith, and music within the family. This may sound
like a fairly typical rendering of generational diff erences. However,
there is much at stake because the senior family members associ-
ate the move with a loss of sacred traditions. The younger members
view the elder members’ reliance upon tradition as dated, and con-
sider the change necessary.
Daughters of the Dust, according to Yvonne Chireau, is an impor-
tant source for interpreting religious signifi ers in African American
culture. In Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring
Tradition (2003), Chireau emphasizes the fi lm’s concluding scene,
where Nana Peazant transfers heirlooms to younger family mem-
bers. Nana’s gift, coupled with the young women’s departure from
the island, signals the merging of religion and magic. Nana’s charm
allows the family to collectively remember their past as participants
in conjuring and faith traditions while celebrating an unknown
future. Chireau suggests that Daughters of the Dust “might be read
as an allegory of the religious sojourn of blacks in America, with
Nana’s charm as a metaphor for the legacy that some have chosen
to preserve, and others to reject.”2 The fi lm’s storyline of preserva-
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