Columbia filmmaker begins work on 'Saltwata Vibes,' doc about contemporary Gullah culture

"When it comes to identity, within this journey, can we discover this new modern music form?"

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Columbia filmmaker Sherard "Shekeese" Duvall and Sara Makeba Daise and Simeon Daise (the children of Ron and Natalie Daise of the TV show Gullah Gullah Island) are beginning work on a new documentary film, Saltwata Vibes. Duvall hopes to have the film in post-production by late 2021.

Saltwata Vibes is about exploring the next generation of Gullah Geechee culture, specifically as it relates to music. "All of these African Diaspora communities created African exports," said Duvall, referencing musical styles like Dancehall and Reggaeton.

"When it comes to identity, within this journey, can we discover this new modern music form?" asked Duvall.



Brother and sister Sara and Simeon want to discover how modernizing their culture — a culture rooted in the descendants of the enslaved from West Africa — can keep it alive.

"There's definitely a narrative that Gullah Geechee history is static and stagnant," said Sara. "What does it mean for us to celebrate and reclaim and define who we are in the present?"

The Southern Documentary Fund, a nonprofit that cultivates documentary projects made in or about the American South, is fiscally sponsoring Saltwata Vibes. The documentary can now solicit and receive tax deductible donations; donate to the project online now.

Part of the documentary's work will be discovering who these next-generation Gullah Geechee musicians are. Simeon has already met with a musician in Freetown, Sierra Leone. "Let's start from there and move forward and see what can be made," said Duvall. "Staying true to that is important — that energy is important for whatever we're going into."

Duvall, Sara and Simeon want this documentary to open the door for more stories about Gullah Geechee culture. Sara already sees a proliferation of Gullah Geechee stories on social media: "They've been able to advocate for themselves and there's a lot of pride in Gullah Geechee all over the world and within the Lowcountry — and [people are] telling stories in the ways that are true to them."

The plans for this documentary come at a pivotal moment in our country, where protesters around the nation — and the world — are calling out racial injustices and police brutality.

"I'm excited for more black people to reframe our stories and unlearn all the lies of colonization," said Sara. "Black people are dying and it's intensifying. We're also living and loving and creating. That is important and worthy. That is what we will continue to do."

Follow along with the documentary's progress on Facebook.

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