African-Caribbean Carnival is the cultural expression of a peoples’ independence, solidarity and joyful defiance against intricate, well designed systems of oppression and exploitation developed by the European complex. In my journey to learn about the origins of this art form I’ve looked back across 350 years and discovered not only the very genesis of African-Caribbean Carnival, but also the dawn of new cultural identities formed from unique, exceptional and unimaginably extraordinary circumstances
Known as Jonkonnu by some, Jamette or Sensay by others, all are part of a collection of folk art forms, some now lost to memory, which seem to first appear in Myal dance rituals across Caribbean sugar, coffee and indigo plantations in the 200 years before emancipation.
This folk art is deeply rooted in traditions and customs brought from 17th century West and Central Africa and syncretised within European religious and cultural practices such as the Christmas and New Year holiday observations for the feasts of St Stephens, Fools and Three Kings and Shrovetide.
These folk art forms are the genesis of African-Caribbean Carnival and this period in history marks the emergence of new and unique African-Caribbean cultural expressions and identities.
Emancipation Carnival, Barbados
‘gonna put on an iron shirt
and chase the devil out of earth’
Chase the Devil, Lee Scratch Perry and Max Romeo, (1976)