Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, a writer and National Public Radio (NPR) commentator who taught the world about the Gullah food and culture of coastal South Carolina, died on Saturday in the Bronx, NPR reports. She was 79.
Grosvenor first gained attention with her 1970 book, “Vibration Cooking, or the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl” (1970), often referred to as an autobiographical cookbook, using her “Lowcountry” rural Allendale County, S.C. cuisine to teach the world about the contributions made by people of African descent globally.
I mention her passing here because Julie Dash is currently working on a feature film on Smart-Grosvenor’s life, titled “Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl.” By the way, Smart-Grosvenor’s also appeared in few films, including Dash’s own “Daughters of the Dust,” and “Beloved” (1998), based on Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel of the same name.
A project we first alerted you to in 2014, Dash’s film on Smart-Grosvenor documents the life of writer, poet, actress, and culinary anthropologist, who also produced award-winning documentaries like 1983’s “Slave Voices: Things Past Telling,” and “Daufuskie: Never Enough Too Soon,” and went on to host NPR’s award-winning documentary series “Horizons” from 1988 until 1995, when it was discontinued.
Born in Fairfax, South Carolina, growing up in a Gullah family, Smart-Grosvenor traveled all over the world as editor for Elan magazine, made appearances on several television programs including “The Today Show” and “Nightline,” and wrote magazine columns for Ebony, Jet, Essence, Publishers Weekly and Redbook to name a few. She also has served on the Literary Task Force for the South Carolina Arts Commission.
She also wrote a “food folk” opera titled “Nyam,” a Gullah word meaning “to eat.”
Dash’s film (a feature documentary that will also include some re-enactments) on her life is still in development. Last year, she launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $55,000 which was to go towards the film’s completion; In the end, 61% of the goal (or about $33,000) was raised.
“We’re using today’s social media and online technology to reach out to people who care about independent film, about women in and on film, about the representation of African American women,” Dash said at the time, appealing to art and food lovers everywhere to help “retrace [Smart-Grosvenor’s] unconventional life journey from the South Carolina Low Country to the world’s stage.”
No word on how much progress has been made on the film thus far, but it’s expected to premiere in 2017.
Below, watch the 3-minute promo that Dash used for the project’s crowdfunding campaign last year, which provides a glimpse at what to expect: