JAMAICA AT CARIFESTA
The Jamaicans, visibly proud of their cultural heritage -
of their Pocomania, Myal, Johncanoo and Cumina; of proud Maroons
2,000 feet up in Cockpit Country and bearded Rastafarians forever
whispering 'Peace and Love' are sending 124 cultural representa-
tives to CARIFESTA.
The mere number suggests stagefuls of colour and rhythms
that are so.Jamaican. This historic participation from the Isle of
Springs include Rastafarian sounds of Count Ozzie and his Mystic
Revelations; the 80 strong Jamaica National Dance Theatre Company;
Smile Orange a three act play; Max Romeo; Jamaica Folk singers
and an art Exhibition....all portraying in some form the soul vibra-
tions of the Jamaican folk scene.,..of the Jew, Chinese, Lebanese,
East Indian, African, Arawak and European.
From the times when the Arawaks called it'Xaymacatto the
present day, Jamaica has always had its enchantment....but the most
enchanting of all was not the beautiful subterranean springs, or
Great Houses but the people and their simple folk culture.
But what is this Jamaican folk culture? What is unique
about it? What aspect of its beauty will be portrayed at CARIFESTA.
Maybe we can start with the Rastafarians since this aspect
of folk-has not only been dominating the Jamaican scene recently but
has also been spilling over..ioto the wider Caribbean and lands of
The Rastafarians appeared some decades ago demanding
repatriation to Ethiopia. To them Haille Selassie (Knownas Ras
Tafari before he was crowned Emperor) is a God....the Lion of the
Tribe of Judah.,..breaking every chain. From Wareika area where
they were once regarded as social outcasts the Rastafarians have
now attained national recognition.
Through the annual Jamaica National Festival their folk
art is now regarded as an outstanding and unique thing. In dance,
Kouromanti chants, hypnotic beat of drums beating out 'Peace and
Love' Count Ozzie and his 15 strong Rastafarian Band of the 'Mystic
Revelations' will capture the very heart of the CARIFESTA audience,
Rising on Lovely beaches to .lofty green clad mountains
Jamaica is a land where the folk is fused into religion. We see
this in Pocomania, Cumina, Obeah, and Myal. and shady ritualistic
assemblies scattered throughout the land.
On the one hand are the song and dance, painting and
sculpture and literature which portray these manifestations; on
the other Pocomanie (little Madness) is a true to life religion
offering a nothing-in-the-world-like-this experience to the
Jamaican rural folk.
Easily discernible in their long white robed, turban on
head and cord around waist to which strange objects are tied, the
Pocomanians have resemblances to the Guyanese spiritualist. With
peculiar sounds and strange chants they clench their fists and hop
around in circles in a frenzied manner, gyrating and rolling until
they catch the spirit and talk in unknown tongues, only to hear
the drums grow dim....dimmer as they lose consciousness,
Not exactly like Pocomania but singularly Jamaican is
Cumina that is practiced by the grassroots people. In a way it
resembles the Guyenese Cumfa except that the drumming is done
only in the centre of the ring with the dancing being done around
Cumina is a revered thing....the folk say that Oto, the
god of Cumina, rules the sky gods, earthbound gods, ancestral
zombies, duppy spirits and human beings and must be fed oncalalu
and white cone and is the first god drummed to in tle invocation
of the drums with the beat of the banda....and so Oto means a lot
to these people who do the Cumina dance.
Every art form will be used to portray the Jamaican cul-
tural scene.., rather to bring about a greater understanding of this
scene. And .when one understands the blending of the religious with
the cultural then one can try to translate the Jamaican landscape
in song and dance, poetry and art and put meaning behind the primi-
tive work of the Jamaican painter and sculptor. Kapo, wh like
Guyanats Philip Moore and the Haitian Hippolyte,reflects the poly-
animatedness of things in the Jamaican world where art and religion,
spirituall vision and work-a-day reality are fused into one."
Maybe it is mainly the task of the 80-strong Jamaica
National Dance Theatre Company and the Jamaica Folk Singers to tran-
slate the Jamaican landscape for the CARIFESTA audience.
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It is for them to tell of Johncanno (probably derived
from dzong Ku'nu meaning terrible sorceror from the Ewe Language)
who come out at Christmastime in colourful bags and rags with
feathered headdresses and blackmasks with ghastly white outlines
dancing to the rhythms of drums and flutes while they brandish
wooden spears and axes.
It is they who will tell in song and dance of the proud
Maroons who ran away to the mountains and defied the colonial
masters like the proud Arucanians of the Andes.. Today these de-
scendants of run away slaves living at Mooretown and Accompong in
Cockpit country are the dnly people in the Caribbean to have a
State within a States They pay no taxes on treaty lands won under
their leader Cudjoe,
It is they who will tell of the pious Bedward, who pro-
mised his thousand-odd followers that he would take them to heaven,
since the world was going to end on a certain day,
The faithful believers sold all their earthly possessions
and watched for the promised moments when the angels were going to
come and they and their leader Bedward were going to fly to meet
That day did arrive. Bedward with face shining in glory,
as they say, climbed a tree in St. Andrew Hills, looked up into the
sky, spread his hands and prepared to fly....the moment had arrived
.On the ground' his followers spread their hands just wait-
ing for their leader to move like a bird on wing. Bedward did fly,...
but to-the ground where he almost shattered his skull....and for
his followers it was shattered hopes. Bedward finally found his
heaven in a lunatic asylum. The story of Bedward is now blended
Both the .Jamaica National Dance Theatre Company led by
Rex Nettleford and-the Jamaica Folksingers led by Olive Lewin are
seeped in folk.
The Jamaica National Dance Theatre Company was formed in
1962 after a commemorative show 'Roots and-Rhythms' celebrating
Its leader, an outstanding Caribbean writer and artist
and choreographer is Chairman of the Committee in Jamaica which
is now carrying out an extensive review and assessment of art and
cultural development in the country.
After CARIFESTA this group will be doing a three-week
tour of the United Kingdom.
The folk presented by the Jamaican Folk Singers had re-
cently won them a prize at the International Folk Music Festival
held in Argehtinarthuy have also performed recently at the Organ-
isation of American States Folk Music Festival held in Washington.
There will be much literature (poetry and prose) painting
and sculpture, drama and music etc, coming from Jamaica for the
Cultural Exposition being held from August 25 to September 15; but
like many countries it is the folk that will prevail.
The Jamaican folk to be presented at CARIFESTA will go
back to a time when a thunderous noise and a mighty wave swallowed
Port Royal the'Sabylon of the West"with thousands of souls and
Their folk will capture the spirit of a time as chron-
icled by a priest when 'Wedges and Pigs of silver, Pieces of Eight
and several other coins of both mettles, rich pearl necklaces, and
pearls unsorted and undrilled several bushes....besides which the
purest and most fine sorts of dust gold from Guinea brought by the
negro ships who first came to Jamaica to deliver their blacks,...
and where seamen and buccaneers gambled with heavy gold coins whose
value no one cared to estimate; and drank out of cups embellished
with sparkling gems torn from half a hundred crthedrolst*
Today Quadrille dance and songs of the rugged buccaneers,
Kouramanti chants and Brer Anancy coming down from a time that has
vanished over the horizon of the mind and blending with Pocomania,
Johncanoo, Cumina, Western Pop, Rastafarian rhythms and images of
the indigenous Arawaks dom*note the Jamaican landscape.,
It is these images thatwill take form through the many
art forms during CARIFESTA.
The 124-strong Jamaican grouDpwill give meaning to these
One of the main aims of CARIFESTA is to give meaning to
the very existence of the Caribbean end Latin American peoples....
meaning to the things they love, the things that helped shape their
past and present....meaning to their hopes and aspirations and
their real essence which flows over into the folk and is captured
by the various art forms.
A whole new perspective comes to life when this meaning
is attached to the Jamaican cultural plain, and all the lands and
people coming to CARIFESTA....a new perspective of even the bearded
Rastafarian whispering 'Peace and Love'.