Picturing a Clearer Understanding of Lowcountry Rice Culture

lesliefront“We’re not taking sides, we’re just trying to help our younger people get an understanding of Southern culture,” artist Jonathan Green says, explaining why the Lowcountry Rice Culture Project is working to disseminate a clearer picture of the region during its rice production heyday. The group this September is sponsoring a three-day forum intended partly to speed the flow of factual information.

According to Green, who chairs the group, the experience of enslaved laborers in particular has been obscured by artists’ inaccurate depictions of plantation life.

Green’s contention is dramatically illustrated by two images in the Charleston Library Society’s collection. The library has extensive holdings related to rice, including 15 wordy nineteenth-century pamphlets outlining the cultivation, harvest and use of rice around the world. The pamphlets also feature cooking advice, such as the “Griddles for Breakfast” recipe from RFW Allston’s 1845 Memoir on the Production and Cultivation of Rice. (“Mix a thin batter with milk and rice flour, adding salt.”) But as an artist, Green is drawn to the archive’s illustrations. Continue reading

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