Charleston-based Andrea Cayetano-Jefferson proudly represents the rich Gullah culture through her peerless creations as a sixth generation sweetgrass basket artist. As child she studied the intricacies of basket sewing from her mother and aunt whom she attributes her commitment to continuing the traditional art form honoring her Gullah ancestors and history.
As a 21st Century Gullah, Andrea is committed to keeping the legacy of her ancestors alive through education. In 2021, she was accepted into the Folklife & Traditional Arts Apprenticeship with her daughter Chelsea, and was featured in the 2020 Vandiver Gallery Exhibition at Anderson University in South Carolina. She has recently been interviewed by local and national news stations about Gullah culture and sweetgrass baskets.
Andrea has been creating baskets for more than 35 years and began working at the renowned Charleston City Market at just eight years old helping to sell her family’s baskets and educating visitors to the holy city. As an adult she returned to Charleston and renewed her love and commitment to continuing and teaching the noted Gullah art of sweetgrass basket sewing.
Selected Accomplishments Include:
Historical Demonstrator - Hagood Mill Historical Site - Pickens, SC
President - Hands to Heritage Master Gullah Weavers - Charleston, SC
Community Coordinator - Gullah Weavers on Etsy Initiative
Folklife & Traditional Arts Apprenticeship - South Carolina Arts Commission
Vendor- Charleston City Market
Chelsea Cayetano is seventh generation Gullah and represents the future of continuing the culture in Lowcountry. She learned the art from her mother, grandmother and other sweetgrass basket weavers in her community of Mt. Pleasant. As part of the digital native generation, Chelsea has worked with her mother to help the older generations move their art to online stores and extend the reach of the Gullah culture.
Sweetgrass basket sewing has been passed down through generations as is one of the sacred traditions that define the Gullah culture. From a young age children will help harvest local materials and learn how to sew baskets. Traditionally groups of Gullah will sit together telling stories, sharing life and making baskets.
Sweetgrass baskets are traditionally comprised of lowcountry sweetgrass, bulrush, pine needles and palmetto fronds. The tradition of basket sewing originated in West Africa and has been handed down through generations of Gullah ancestors throughout the lowcountry of the southern United States.
For hundreds of years the Gullah culture has thrived in the Lowcountry of the southern US. The traditions, cuisine and language can be traced to their West African ancestors.
On the sea islands of South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina, the enslaved Gullah were often left alone and isolated allowing them to continue their African traditions.