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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Gullah Bible: Echoes of the African Voices

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Yesterday my 4-year-old daughter and I were at a church service, and about an hour into the program, she got a little fidgety. She was really interested in the Bibles that were in the pew and wanted me to read one of them. So I opened one up to the beginning and started reading, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the ...

Then she didn't want to hear anymore of the story. I was thinking that if I had a copy of the Gullah Bible called "De Nyew Testament," then I might be able to hold her attention a little longer.

I would probably have started with John 7:24:

Oona mus dohn jedge jes wa oona da see. Mus jedge how ting da fa true. Den some de people dey een Jerusalem beena aks say, "Dis de man wa de Jew leada dem da try fa kill, ainty? Bot see yah, e da taak yah weh ebrybody yeh um, an dey ain say nottin ginst um! Ya spose de Jew leada dem know fa true dat Jedus, e de Messiah? Bot wen de Messiah come, nobody ain gwine know weh e come fom, an we all know weh dis man come fom.


I bet that would have held her attention!

The Gullah Bible was completed in 2005 by The Sea Island Translation Team in cooperation with Wycliffe Bible Translators. The American Bible Society served as the publishing house for the book, which took its translators more than 25 years to complete.

Here's some information from the preface of the book:

Gullah, also known as Geechee or as Sea Island Creole, is a language traditionally spoken along the coastal area of South Carolina and Georgia. While in the past Gullah was mistakenly characterized as poor English, today it is recognized as a distinct language. It is an English creole, born several hundred years ago out of a contact language situation where Africans were taken from various nations and language groups to grow rice in the marshy lowcountry area along the Southeastern coast of the American colony.


If you ever visit certain parts of South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida--especially the Sea Islands and the Charleston area--you'll hear echoes of the African voices today.

4 comments:

Anne said...

There is a brief part in the Civil War movie Glory that shows slaves speaking a language that sounds similar. It must be the Island Creole you write about. It's interesting to hear it spoken, and very interesting to read about a part of culture that many people don't know exists/existed. Thank you for this.

Anne said...

Oh, my mistake, I think the characters were actually former slaves turned soldiers. Still interesting to hear the language spoken.

Alicia Benjamin-Samuels said...

Anne,
Yes, I think the Gullah language is beautiful. I have some relatives from South Carolina and North Carolina who still have the accents, although they don't use the words. My dad says he remembers his relatives speaking some of the language.

Yes, I think a few of those soldiers in Glory did speak some of the language. My husband knows some of the words from the film by heart. I LOVE that film. I'll have to purchase soon.

I just read on your blog about some of the Georgia state officials not wanting to apologize about slavery. Your take on making apologies is very interesting. Made me think about it in another light.
Thanks!
Alicia

Anne said...

Thank you, Alicia.
And I love that film too. :)