"Daughters of the Dust" chronicles two very pivotal days in the life of the Peazant family, descendants of slaves who reside on islands near South Carolina and Georgia. Against the wishes of the family matriarch, Nana, the younger Peazants are planning to leave the island for the mainland. Viola Peazant, who has turned her back completely on the African folk-ways still practiced by Nana, is elated at the family's decision to "cross over" and has brought a photographer to capture the event for posterity. However, the going-away picnic draws two unexpected guests: Yellow Mary Peazant, who has been away in Cuba for many years, and her companion (lover?) Trula.
A sub-plot involves Eula Peazant, who has been raped by a white plantation owner and is pregnant; her husband, Eli, despairs that the child is not his. Eula's unborn child, who is in fact Eli's daughter, narrates many portions of the film.
Much of the film is given over to beautiful images of Ibo Landing, the Peazant family's settlement. Thematically, tension between the traditional and the modern prevails throughout; a degree of magical realism also enriches the plot. The high point occurs at the going-away picnic, where Nana implores her family not to forget their ancestors and their family history in their migration north. While the majority of the family does cross over to the mainland in the final scene, there is resolution in the syncretism of modernity with African ritual, and in the decision of several Peazants to remain behind with Nana.
Copyright (c) 2001 by Heather Sullivan, Undergraduate at The College of New Jersey.