Bluffton artists Andy Tate and Bernice Mitchell Tate bring the past to life in "Doctuh Buzzard's Rootworks," a folk medicine-inspired installation on display at Savannah State University.
Together, the Tates created a replica of a Lowcountry root doctor's workshop, complete with tools of the trade, such as dried chicken feet and weathered jars of St. Helena's Hex Oil, Hoodoo Water and Goofer Dust.
From Dr. Buzzard's imaginary reading room to his supernatural gift shop, the installation is filled with medicinal herbs and ritualistic objects.
"We re-imagined an apothecary or hoodoo workshop with gravesites, effigies of Dr. Buzzard and charm bottles," Andy Tate says. "It's based on our conversation with old-timers."
This exhibit explores the cultural, spiritual and sociological dimensions of hoodoo, a nature-based approach to healing which combines traditional African folk medicine and magic.
Hoodoo helps people access supernatural forces to improve their daily lives, attain power, find love, seek revenge, encourage luck or communicate with the dead.
As in many other folk practices, herbs, minerals, animal parts and bodily fluids play a key role.
"Hoodoo is part of the invisible culture here," Andy Tate says. "It's similar to the voodoo culture in New Orleans."
Bernice Mitchell Tate, a native of Sheldon, S.C., believes hoodoo is an important part of the subculture in the Lowcountry.
"Long ago, when people couldn't afford to go to the doctor, they would go to root doctors," she says.
"It's an invisible faith that's part of the folklore of the Lowcountry."
IF YOU GO
What: "Doctuh Buzzard's Rootworks: Southern Charms Hoodoo Museum and Gift Shop Collection," an installation by Andy Tate and Bernice Mitchell Tate
When: Through Sept. 27
Where: Savannah State University Social Science Building Gallery, 3219 College St.
Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday
Once popular throughout Savannah and the surrounding Lowcountry, hoodoo is perhaps best embodied by Dr. Buzzard, a legendary figure who served as an area root doctor.
According to local lore, Dr. Buzzard died almost 70 years ago, yet his presence remains strong.
"Dr. Buzzard is an iconic folk person," Andy Tate says. "There are actually many layers to Dr. Buzzard. There were a number of different root doctors called Dr. Buzzard, all throughout the area."
In 2012, the "Doctuh Buzzard" installation toured the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston, the Arts Council of Beaufort, Port Royal and Sea Islands and ARTworks Community Art Center in Beaufort.
This homespun installation at Savannah State University celebrates the spirit of hoodoo culture through a three-dimensional replica of a root doctor's emporium.
"This is where traditional folklore intersects with reality," Andy Tate says. "There's a great deal of interest in this subject. As creative people, we want to take it to the next level."