47 0 0 carolina skiff images 13 6. On South Carolina’s once-isolated Sea Islands, Gullah is still spoken, African traditions are carried on, and salty marshes perfume the air. God’s earth,” says the man behind the wheel of the gray 1985 Oldsmobile. We’re driving on a slender road that eases across swirling sweet grass and dusky marsh toward a steely vault of ocean.
Crabbers prowl the crimson swamp with dip nets, and fishermen on shrimp boats—their nets spread wide like angels’ wings—pluck pearly shellfish from the river. As we gaze out our open windows, the car’s ceiling liner flutters in the breeze and gospel seeps from the radio. Not that there’s any reason to doubt the Baptist preacher. He was, after all, conceived and nurtured in this haunting, wild, and watery land halfway between Savannah and Charleston. Bryant, he grew up speaking English, but gained fluency in Geechee and Gullah—the languages of his slave great-grandparents who toiled on the islands’ rice plantations—as a child. He’s talking to four of us who have signed up for The Rev’s Step-On Gullah Tours—”Step-On” as in, he’ll “step on your tour bus” if you need him to.