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, into the wider Caribbean and lands of
The Rastafarians appeared some decades ago demanding
repatriation to Ethiopi!-. To them Haille Selassie (Known as Ras
Tafari before he was crowned Emperor) is a God ....the Lion of the
Tribe of Judah4..breaking every chain. From Wareika area where
they were once regarded as social outcasts the Rastaforians 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
Lovet Count Ozzie and his 15 strong Rastafarian Band of the 'Mystic
Revelations' will capture the very heart of the CARIFESTA audience.
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It is for them to tell of Johncanno (probably derived
from dzong Kulnu meaning terrible sorcerer 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 only people in the Caribbean to have a
State within a State. 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