The 1994-1998 Nick Jr. series Gullah Gullah Island was the kind of colorful show that might have caught the attention of channel surfers of any age. Its mixture of music, cuisine, and culture set it apart from not only the Nick Jr. lineup but also just about everything on TV at that time. In a new episode of CNN’s Great Big Story, the show’s West African roots are explored through its stars (and real-life married couple) Ron and Natalie Daise. It’s a fascinating look at a bit of fondly remembered nostalgia and a little-traveled part of the world—albeit one that doesn’t technically exist.
“There is no real place called Gullah Gullah Island except on TV,” Daise explains. But just because the title locale was fictional doesn’t mean that Gullah Gullah Island didn’t have a lot to say about the real world and its history. “It is based on the Gullah Geechee culture,” adds Daise, “which was passed on by enslaved West Africans who were brought to this country.”
Gullah Geechee, which still survives in coastal villages in Georgia and the Carolinas, is an amalgamation of African language and cultures that were brought to America via that slave trade. “I am Gullah Geechee and proud of it,” Daise proclaims. “It’s important to me to make sure that Gullah Geechee culture is preserved, because it’s a very important factor of American heritage.”
Digging into that heritage should give adults a deeper appreciation for the show they loved as kids—and if nothing else, you get to hear the Daises sing its catchy theme song.