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 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 in some countries, Jamette, Canboulay, Sensay or Crop Over in others. They are part of a collection of folk art forms, some now lost to memory, that first start to appear as Myal dance rituals across Caribbean sugar, coffee and indigo plantations in the pre-emancipation European colonies.
This folk art is deeply rooted in traditions and customs brought from 17th century West and Central Africa and syncretised into European religious practices such as the holiday celebrations for the feasts of St Stephens, Fools and Three Kings and Shrovetide. These artforms 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)