Sunday, February 15, 2009

Celebrating Black History Month in Charleston

In honor of February's Black History Month, we'd like to remind everyone that the only official African Village within the United States is located just outside of Charleston, South Carolina in a small town called Sheldon about halfway between Savannah and Charleston on highway 17.

The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian has visited the Oyotunji Kingdom in the past and found the small tribe absolutely fascinating. The village was founded in 1970, receives tourists and now has a website. Tours include overviews of the Oyotunji history, beliefs, and traditions. Trinkets and clothing, masks and many other handmade crafts are for sale in small wooden stand-like structures near the entrance. Cottage homes are located off toward the back sides of the village, peppered among native Carolina trees blanketed by swaths of dangling Spanish Moss. The ritual and celebration areas linger in the center of the village. The Oyotunji people do have cars and stuff. They're not exactly like the Amish in Pennsylvania living without electricity. But, they are certainly practicing an alternative lifestyle, probably as close to their original African heritage as is acheivable in modern times inside of the US.

Two interesting things stuck out as we sat here pondering the details of our last visit to the Oyotunji Kingdom for you, our readers. We seem to remember being told not to take pictures. The good news is another Charleston blogger has a great one. But the more striking memory was this - as we lumbered down the long dirt road, a painted wooden sign greeted us at the point where the Oyotunji's 27 acres of land began. It read, "You have now left the United States of America."

Check a video: