2017-08-31 / Front Page

Biggerstaff will discuss Gullah culture at History in the Park lecture series

Local artist and author Pat “Nolia” Biggerstaff will speak on “The Gul­lah People and their Culture” at the September edition of the Lincoln County Historical Society’.s .“Histo­ry in the Park” lecture series, which will be held on Thursday, September 7, beginning at 7 p.m. in the May House at the Historical Park.

This is a fascinating story of a people and a culture that developed in the South Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands and coastal areas – re­ferred to as 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.”

Having recently completed her newest book, “Separation Song,” which Biggerstaff both authored and illustrated, she explores the rich heritage and culture of the Gullah people, making her a knowledgable source on this particular community. Within her book she vividly depicts Sea Island life, and the unique Gul­lah language, culture, and cuisine surrounding the area.

Copies of the book will be avail­able at the talk.

“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,” Lincoln County Historical Society President Gary Edwards said. “It’s especially appropriate that her book has just been published – it looks like a children’s 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.”

Her book likewise highlights real historical locations of the Low­country and is packed with rich vocabulary and educational areas of study.

“Separation Song” has been se­lected for the Beaufort, S.C., library system archives to help preserve information on the Sea Island life and the Gullah people. Biggerstaff will speak on the inspiration for her book and the unique information it contains for the young and old.

She will offer ideas on day trips and weekend excursions that en­compass historical sites and infor­mation about the Lowcountry and Sea Island, while also sharing great getaway ideas for any time of the year, and the locations of southern Sea Island hidden treasures.

Biggerstaff came to Lincoln County in 1970, as the new bride of former mayor Dwaine Biggerstaff.

Nolia was a nickname given to Biggerstaff 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 Master of Education in reading, and a master’s degree in administration and supervision.

She later 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 three 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, Biggerstaff was appointed by then Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to serve on the Geor­gia State Board of Education. She often worked as the Governor.’.s .sub­stitute speaker on educational issues during this time, and met with him frequently on educational issues.

After serving on the Georgia State School Board, Biggerstaff 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.

Currently, she enjoys her time by creating artwork for the com­munity. Most recently she painted the memorial tree in the Lincoln County Library, along with working extensively on murals for the Elijah Clark Park Nature Center.

Those with the society are antici­pating this unique talk with Bigger­staff, as Edwards remarked, “This should be another great example of a story not often told and Nolia Biggerstaff is absolutely passionate about it – it will be a great talk and you won’t want to miss it!”

The Historical Park is located at 147 Lumber Street, and the History in the Park lectures are held on the first Thursday of each month from March through November, with the exception of 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 accepted, as the Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit or­ganization.

For more information, contact Edwards at 757-831-9556.

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