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History in the park: The Gullah People and their Culture

Posted: August 23, 2017 - 2:50am
Noila (Pat) Biggerstaff just completed a book, “Separation Song,” which depicts the rich Gullah language, culture and cuisine.

The Lincoln County Historical Society will welcome artist and author Nolia (Pat) Biggerstaff for its September lecture series.

Biggerstaff will speak on The Gullah People and their culture, at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 7.

The story revolves around a people and a culture that developed in the South Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands and coastal areas (the "lowcountry") with very little interaction with the rest of the country. The Gullah have their own language and culture that is descended from their African roots and the language is sometimes referred to as "Sea Island Creol."

Biggerstaff has just completed a book "Separation Song" which depicts Sea Island life and the rich Gullah language, culture and cuisine. Copies of the book will be available at the talk.

Nolia (Pat) Biggerstaff came to Lincoln County in 1970, as the new bride of Dwaine Biggerstaff. Nolia is a nickname given to Pat by her sea island friends and is a name used for her artwork and business. Her first job in Lincoln County was as the art teacher at Lincoln County High School. She taught art and reading in various classroom positions in Lincoln and Wilkes Counties as well as serving as a Reading Consultant for the CSRA - Regional Education Services Agency while she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education with a minor in Art, a Masters of Education in Reading, and a Master's Degree in Administration and Supervision. She then served as Vice Principal in charge of instruction at Maxwell Elementary School in Thomson, where she gained the attention of state and national dignitaries as Maxwell moved from a non-performing Title1 school to a National Blue-Ribbon School of Excellence in 3 short years. During this time, she accepted many awards on behalf of the school and traveled the country speaking at various national educational conferences. Upon retirement, she was appointed by then Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to serve on the Georgia State Board of Education. She was often the Governor's substitute speaker on educational issues during this time, and met with him often on educational issues.

After serving on the Georgia State School Board, Nolia began to devote more time to her love of art and the Lowcountry. She has conducted many workshops and lessons on art both public and private. She enjoys her time now doing artwork for the community. Most recently she painted the memorial tree in the Lincolnton Library and has done extensive murals for the Elijah Clark Park Nature Center.

"In the History in the Park speaker series, we try to address local, state and regional history. This is an area of southeastern history that we have not previously delved into and I think this is an important and interesting topic," said Lincoln County Historical Society President Gary Edwards. "It's especially appropriate that her book has just been published - it looks like a childrens' book, but it has Gullah culture weaved into it in a way that appeals to adults as well and it has been very well received in the Gullah community."

The History in the Park lectures are held at the Lincoln County Historical Park, 147 Lumber Street, Lincolnton, GA on the first Thursday of the month from March through November, usually skipping July. Desserts, water, coffee and tea will be served after the presentation, allowing plenty of time to speak individually with the speaker. There is no admission fee, however donations to the Historical Society will be gladly accepted.

The Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. For questions, contributions or to volunteer, contact Gary Edwards, President of the Lincoln County Historical Society, at (757) 831-9556

 

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