Their baskets appeared during June, 2010 in a special exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. Smalls and Niles will travel to the nation's capital for the reception and opening Tuesday and Wednesday.
The two are distant cousins from the Mount Pleasant area who learned the time-intensive practice of coiling sweetgrass into baskets from their great-grandmother. They're best known locally for teaching classes on the craft, including selling and making their baskets at the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce's Welcome Center on the north end of the island.
"The (Smithsonian) exhibit is a great chance to keep this art form going," said Smalls, a Bluffton resident.
The practice has been passed from generations, originating in West Africa and continuing in slave plantations of the Lowcountry. Slaves made large, round fanner baskets to clean off rice husks. While it originated for practical purposes, the basket making lives on today as an art form.