Front Cover
 Table of Contents
 Back Cover

Title: Jamaica journal
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090030/00055
 Material Information
Title: Jamaica journal
Series Title: Jamaica journal.
Abbreviated Title: Jam. j.
Physical Description: v. : ill. (part col.) ; 31 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Institute of Jamaica
Publisher: Institute of Jamaica.
Place of Publication: Kingston
Publication Date: May-July 1987
Frequency: semiannual
Subject: Periodicals -- Jamaica   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Jamaica
Dates or Sequential Designation: Began with Dec. 1967 issue.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090030
Volume ID: VID00055
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 01797964
lccn - 75027862
issn - 0021-4124

Table of Contents
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    Table of Contents
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Full Text

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Jamaica Journal is published on
behalf of the Institute of Jamaica
12-16 East Street, Kingston, Jamaica
by Institute of Jamaica Publications Ltd.

All correspondence should be
addressed to:
IOJ Publications Ltd.
2A Suthermere Road, Kingston 10,
Telephone: (809) 92-94785/6
Olive Senior

Assistant Editor
Maxine Patricia McDonnough
Design and Production
Camille Parchment
Patsi Smith

Support Services
Faith Myers Secretarial
Eton Anderson Accounting
Back issues: Most back issues are
available. List sent on request. Entire
series available on microfilm from
University Microfilms, Ann Arbor,
Michigan 48106, U.S.A.
Subscriptions: J$50 for four issues
(in Jamaica only); U.S.$15, U.K
Retail single copy price: J$15 (in
Jamaica only); overseas U.S. $5 or
U.K.3 post paid surface mail.
Advertising: Rates sent on request.
Index: Articles appearing in Jamaica
Journal are abstracted and indexed
in Historical Abstracts and America:
History and Life.
Vol. 20 No.2 Copyright 0 1987
by Institute of Jamaica Publications
Limited. Cover or contents may not
be reproduced in whole or in part
without written permission.

ISSN: 0021-4124

Vol. 20 No. 2

Deryck Roberts
COVER: Composite photo symbolising our special feature on death
rituals and responses. The monument in the Spanish Town Cathedral
is to the Earl of Effingham and his wife Catherine who died within three
weeks of each other while the Earl was Governor of Jamaica.The marble
monument by John Bacon, R.A. followed his success with the Rodney
Memorial (see inside back cover). The Effingham monument incorporates
classical funeral motifs, symbols of the governor's office (mace, scale
and purse) and specifically Jamaican motifs such as the alligator symbol
on the woman's belt and the Jamaican coat of arms.

May July 1987

History and Life

Special Feature Death: Some Rituals and Responses

12 Western Responses to Death in a Jamaican Context
by Elizabeth Pigou

17 Tombstones in the Jewish Cemetery and What They Tell
by Betty Bailey
23 A Note on Afro-Jamaican Beliefs and Rituals
by Elizabeth Pigou

27 Dinki Mini
by Laura Tanna with interviews by Hazel Ramsay
34 A Century of Murder in Jamaica 1880-1980
by Michele Johnson


2 The Search for Africa's Baobab Tree in Jamaica
by John Rashford

The Arts
32 Poems: The Old Cotton Trees are Dying
Hill People
by Earl McKenzie

Regular Features

55 Art: Christopher Gonzalez
by Gloria Escoffery

43 Music: From Field to Platform: Jamaican Folk Music in
Concert.... 2
by Pamela O'Gorman

51 Books and Writers
Reviews: Richardson Wright's Revels in Jamaica 1682-1838
by Noel Vaz
James Miller's Koori
by Alan Eyre
Literary Magazines
Briefly Noted

49 Notes on Contributors




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The Search for

Africa's Baobab Tree

in Jamaica
Text and illustrations by John Rashford

fthe many plants introduced into Jamaica none is more
intriguing than Africa's spectacular baobab tree (Adan-
sonia digitata). We can see from the illustrations that
this is an enormous and unusual tree. African legend tells us
that the baobab's strange appearance results from the fact
that it was planted upside-down when the world was created.
This refers to its stumpy, irregularly shaped branches which
resemble roots thrusting into the air. Its distinctly odd ap-
pearance makes the baobab an easily recognized feature of
the landscape wherever it grows and has earned it various
descriptive epithets such as 'ludicrous', 'monstrous', 'gro-
tesque' and 'ugly', 'spooky' and 'unnatural'.
This article presents photographic illustrations of the four
baobab trees whose existence I have been able to verify and
it summarizes the little information that is available on the
history of this species in Jamaica.1
Although there is significant individual variation, baobabs
can, in general, be described as large trees that grow up to
sixty feet tall with one or more enormous bulging trunks that
seem way out of proportion to the height and spread of the
tree. The trunk is usually topped by thick, rapidly tapering
branches that, in the drier parts of Africa, are often leafless
for a good part of the year.
In the Caribbean, leaves are usually shed during the winter
dry season and new leaves appear in the spring and early sum-
mer and last through the fall. The baobab has alternate com-
pound leaves, each composed of a long leaf stalk with three
to seven oval-shaped leaflets radiating from the top like fin-
gers from the hand. The leaflets which are usually five in
number vary in size with the earliest being the smallest and
the terminal leaflet being the largest.
The growth of new leaves in the spring and early summer
is followed by flower buds on very long stalks that bloom
in June and July. In some cases the large white or creamy
'upside-down' flowers (which are about six inches across and
look like those of the hibiscus) appear as early as May and
trees in the Caribbean can be seen blooming as late as

The finest example of the baobab located in Jamaica so far the tree
at the Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha) girls' school (above); the
imposing trunk at left gives some idea of its tremendous girth.

From these flowers develop large, woody, gourd-like pods
that are oblong in shape and covered by a furry velvet-like
coat. Each fruit contains some thirty or more brown, kid-
ney-shaped seeds embedded in a white or creamy acidic
pulp laced together in a mass of tough, stringy fibres. These
fruits mature through the summer and autumn and they
ripen and fall from the tree in the winter, spring and early
The baobab is a native of the hot, dry savannahs of tropi-
cal Africa. It is often described as the 'best known' or 'the
most prominent' member of the genus Adansonia of which
there are some nine related species that are only known to
occur naturally on the island of Madagascar and in Australia.
Human fascination with the baobab has resulted in the
spread of this species throughout the tropical regions of the
world where it can now be found growing on public and pri-
vate grounds, along roadsides and walkways, and in home
gardens, botanic gardens, nurseries, and parks.
In the literature the baobab is described as 'rare' in the
Caribbean but it is far more common than is generally recog-
nized. It is known to exist in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, St.
Thomas and St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands), Antigua, St. Kitts,
Nevis, Dominica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vin-
cent, and the Dutch islands of Curacao and St. Eustatius.
Jamaica is fortunate to have received the attention of
what Asprey and Thornton [1953 p.363] refer to as a 'long
list of distinguished botanists' and as they rightly point out,
'the island was one of the earliest and best botanized areas in

the Caribbean.' When we examine this literature we find that
Sloane [1696, 1707-25], Barham [1794], Browne [1756],
and Long [1774] who were among the leading figures in initial
studies of the island's natural history, do not mention the
existence of the baobab in Jamaica. One of the earliest refer-
ences appears in Bryan Edwards's History Civil and Com-
mercial of the British Colonies in the West Indies [1796]. In
chapter four, Edwards describes the relief, climate, rivers,
springs, soils, ores, forests, and crops of Jamaica and at the
end of his discussion he writes:
I shall conclude this chapter, with an authentic catalogue of
the foreign plants in the public botanical garden of this island;
lamenting, at the same time, that I am not able to gratify the
reader with a more copious and extensive display, from the
magnificent orchard of my late friend Hinton East, Esquire,
who had promised to favour me with an Hortus Eastensis, to
be prepared for this work; but much greater room have I to
lament the cause of my disappointment, and mourn over the
severity of that fate which suddenly snatched a most amiable
and excellent citizen from his friends and the public, and hur-
ried him to an untimely grave. Such is the vanity of hope,
and the uncertainty of life!

The catalogue indicates that the baobab was among the trees
to be found growing in Hinton East's garden at the time of
his death in 1792.
East was an Oxford-educated Jamaican from an establish-
ed creole family who returned to the island toward the end
of the eighteenth century to practice law. He was an influen-
tial man from the 1770s until his death in 1792 and is general-
ly recognized as one of the most important figures in the
early history of plant introduction to the island. East was a
planter who found ample time to be of public service as re-
ceiver general, registrar in the court of the vice-admiralty,
public treasurer and an influential member of the colony's
ruling political body, the house of assembly. Eyre [1966
p.16] notes that 'Jamaica's present appearance probably
owes more to Hinton East than to anyone else' and Webster
[1965 p.4] describes East as the 'benefactor of all Caribbean
gardeners'. The catalogue of plants growing in East's garden
which Bryan Edwards published was prepared by Doctor
Broughton whom Edwards [p.189] described as 'a very
eminent and learned physician and botanist'. If the baobab
tree or trees which Broughton saw in East's garden in 1793
were planted between 1770 and 1792, they would be ap-
proximately 195 to 217 years old today and would have at-
tained a size that would make them easily recognisable features
of the environment. I have explored the general area where
Hinton East's garden was located [see Powell 1972] and there
is no indication that the baobab tree or trees mentioned by
Broughton have survived.
Another reference to baobab in Jamaica is in Lunan's
Hortus Jamaicensis (1814). Lunan was also a Jamaican
planter and his book was largely a compilation of earlier
sources with little original information. Apart from no-
ting the existence of the tree, Lunan tells us is that it was
introduced by Hinton East. We learn nothing from him
about the distribution and history of this species in Jam-
Twenty-one years after Lunan's book, Macfayden a
medical doctor published his study of the island's flora
and he too makes reference to the existence of the baobab in
Jamaica. He notes only that it was 'introduced' and that it
'may be frequently met with'. Macfayden's comments sug-
gest that the baobab was fairly common. Unfortunately, he


Baobab trees are remarkable for the great age and girth that they
attain and for their unusual appearance which is due, says the legend,
to the fact that they were planted upside-down when the world was
created. This ancient specimen in Sri Lanka shows the typical shape
of the tree.
does not provide us with the location of individual speci-
mens, and it is difficult to believe that the tree was as wide-
spread as he suggests.
Another indication of baobab in Jamaica appears in the
1883 Annual Report of the Public Gardens and Plantations.
In discussing the cultivation and distribution of economic
plants, Morris who was then director of public gardens and
plantations reports that 'A few specimens of this tree (some-
what resembling the cotton tree) are found in the island;
where, as near Constant Spring (St. Andrew), they attain a
large size and well deserve the name of "gouty stem" trees.' I
have made several unsuccessful attempts to locate the tree
'near Constant Spring' and I suspect that if it did exist, it has
not survived. Unlike Macfayden, Morris notes that there were
only a 'few specimens' in Jamaica, and it is unfortunate that
the only location he provided was that of a tree 'near Con-
stant Spring'.
One of the most interesting references appears in the
September 1887 Bulletin of the botanical department which
presented a list of 'fruits' grown in the botanic gardens and
offered for sale. On the list was the baobab, whose seedlings
were being sold for three pennies each.
In 1900, Edwin Atkins of Boston established a garden in
Cuba on his plantation at Soledad, near Cienfuegas. Hub-
bard's 1932 study of the garden indicates that the baobab
was among the plants there. What is especially interesting is
that these trees came from seeds sent from Jamaica. Hubbard
indicates that this took place on three occasions. In 1907
seeds were sent by a D. Houghes and in 1908 by both
Houghes and one R. Cameron. It is interesting to note that in
1887 baobab seedlings were being grown for sale in Jamaica
and for shipment to Cuba and elsewhere and that although
they continue to thrive in the garden at Soledad (and per-
haps elsewhere) not a single specimen is to be found in any
of Jamaica's botanic gardens today.
Another indication of the existence of baobab trees in
Jamaica appeared in an article titled "Notes on Fruits in
Jamaica", published by William Harris, then superintendent
of botanical gardens, in the 1912 Bulletin of the Department
of Agriculture. The purpose of Harris's article was 'merely to
give some idea' of the kinds of fruits that are to be found in
Jamaica and in it he mentions the baobab. He offers a brief
comment on the tree's origin, size, longevity and fruit, but

tells us nothing about its distribution and history in Jamaica.
Adams [1972] also notes the existence of the baobab in
his authoritative study of the flowering plants of the island,
but gives no location except that they are 'occasional in gar-
dens' [p.49].

The Baobabs Discovered

Having looked at various references to baobabs in Jamaica,
I would now like to show how my interest developed, and to
indicate the ways in which I have come to learn about the
trees that were found.
In 1983 I became interested in the cultural importance of
the cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra) to the people of the Carib-
bean. While researching this topic in Antigua, I was directed
to what was said to be a fine example of a cotton tree which
turned out instead to be a baobab. I was surprised. My earliest
encounter with baobab trees was during my studies in East
Africa, and this was the first time I had seen one in the New
World. After a close inspection of the tree and several photo-
graphs, I continued my study of cotton trees. I did not think
of the tree again until I came across additional specimens in
St. Kitts and several on St. Croix.
The discovery of these trees convinced me that this was a
topic worth exploring. I began a study of the baobab in the
Caribbean only to discover that we really know very little
about the history of this species in the region; this was es-
pecially true of Jamaica. To learn more about the baobab
in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean, I began a study
of the botanical literature and I also wrote to individuals who
are recognized for their knowledge of Caribbean flora.
Among them was Dr. George Proctor who was botanist and
head of the Natural History Division, Institute of Jamaica,
for many years.
I wrote to Dr. Proctor in December 1985 and received a
response indicating the location of two trees that he knew of
and one about which he was uncertain. All were in Kingston.
'One of these', he wrote, 'is fairly conspicuous, just across
the gully from Old Hope Road just below the intersection of
Wellington Drive' and he went on to note that 'the owner of
this tree (if still the same person) knows its identity and is
quite protective'. The second tree he described as 'just west of
Hopefield Avenue, about 150 yards or so south of the junc-
tion with Hope Road'. He also suggested that there might be
a tree at Kings House or Hope Gardens though he had not
seen it.
In May and June 1986 I went in search of Jamaica's baobab
trees in the midst of the worst floods the island had seen in
recent years. The tree growing on the side of the Mountain
View Gully at the intersection of Old Hope Road and Munroe
Road (which becomes Wellington Drive) was not difficult to
locate as it is easy to see as one drives by. It is a very beautiful
tree and about thirty to thirty-five feet in height.3 I would
estimate it to be fifty or sixty years old. The tree divides at
its base to form two main trunks; measured four feet from
the ground, one is seven feet five and one-half inches in cir-
cumference and the other is seven feet. When I first saw the
tree at the end of May 1986, it was full of mature leaves
which probably appeared in March or April. There were six
fully developed fruits on the tree from the 1986 winter-spring
crop and there were many under the tree. There were also
many young flower buds on the tree.

Two for Nature Lovers....

Gosse's Jamaica 1844- 5
Edited by D.B. Stewart

The great English naturalist Philip Henry Gosse
(1810-88) spent 18 months in Jamaica and his writings
reflect 'The unwearying delight of those months'
which resulted in The Birds of Jamaica (1847),
Illustrations to The Birds of Jamaica (1849) and A
Naturalist's Sojourn in Jamaica (1851).
Gosse's Jamaica combines the best parts of
The Birds and A Naturalist's Sojourn with 16
illustrations of birds, eight in colour.
Gosse's Jamaica is of wide general appeal but will
be of particular interest to bird lovers. Although not
a field guide, anyone with an interest in Jamaican
birds and scenery will find it an invaluable and
rewarding companion.

ISBN 976-8017-00-7 J*70 UK 15 U.S.$20

Forests of Jamaica
Edited by D.A. Thompson, Peter
Bretting, Marjorie Humphreys
Published by the Jamaican Society of
Scientists and Technologists

A definitive statement on the forests of Jamaica in
the 1980s.

A book by specialists which can be read and
appreciated by anyone with an interest in our
natural heritage.

Lavishly illustrated: 21 black and white photographs;
20 in colour.

Edited proceedings of a Caribbean seminar on forest
reserves of Jamaica, their management and use.
International and regional environmentalists working
in the disciplines of botany, forestry and conservation
contribute to a unique work describing one type of
eco-system on a tropical island. Includes an invaluable
species list and the text of the Forest Act of Jamaica.
ISBN 976-8017-02-3 J$150 UK 30 U.S.$40

Orders and trade enquiries to:

Institute of Jamaica Publications Limited
2A Suthermere Road. Kingston 10, Jamaica, Telephone: 92-94785/6

Baobab at Hopefield Avenue in Kingston.

Details of the baobab:Above: close-up of leaves, flower buds and both
fresh and dried flowers; right, top to bottom: whole fruit, section of
fruit and pulp and seeds.

Baobab tree at the corner of Munroe Road and Old Hope Road in

The tree at Alpha boys' school.

On 5 June 1986, I spoke to Gerald Wight the 'protective
owner' described by Proctor. Wight said he had bought the
land with the tree on it. Twenty-one years ago when construc-
tion was taking place on the Mountain View Gully, he no-
ticed a man who had stopped his car and was talking to the
construction crew. He went to see what was happening and
learned that the man was George Proctor and that he was
asking the men not to 'push the tree down' or 'damage it',
and telling them 'that this African tree was the only one
of its kind in Jamaica'. It is clear that Dr. Proctor knew of
this tree for twenty-three years or more because in 1964 and
1966 he prepared herbarium specimens for the Institute of
The second tree I went in search of was the one on Hope-
field Avenue. My first two attempts to locate it were unsuc-
cessful but it was finally found by a friend to be growing
along the driveway at 39 Hopefield Avenue. I saw this tree
on 6 June 1986 and was surprised to see it covered with old
man's beard (Tillandsia usneoides). Its tall (and for a baobab)
relatively slender grey trunk was over forty-five feet in height,
with a circumference of twelve feet one inch measured at
four feet from the ground. Like the Munroe Road tree it also
had new leaves that were fully developed. There were four
mature fruits on the tree from the 1986 winter crop and this
tree too was full of flower buds. I saw this tree again on
1 October 1986, and it still had all its leaves. There were no
buds or flowers and only twelve maturing fruits were visible
from the ground.
As I mentioned earlier, my efforts to locate the tree that
Morris [1884 p.19] said was to be found at Constant Spring
was a failure and so were my efforts to locate the tree Proctor
thought might be found at Kings House or Hope Gardens.
The discovery of other trees came from an entirely different
I received one of my most important leads regarding
baobabs in Jamaica while searching for material in the lib-
rary and herbarium of the Natural History Division of the
Institute of Jamaica. During the course of my visit to the
Institute, I met Norma Johanneson, the head of the Natural
History Division, and told her of my interest in locating bao-
bab trees. She provided me with a copy of an article dealing
with the baobab in Jamaica written by Alex Hawkes and
published in the Gleaner on 21 May 1970. It was the con-
tinuation of an earlier article which appeared on 16 April
Alex Hawkes travelled widely in Jamaica and was well-
known through his column in the Daily Gleaner which focus-
sed on the island's flora. The 16 April article titled "Save
Jamaica's Rare African Baobab Tree" showed that he was as
surprised to learn about the existence of the baobab in Jam-
aica as I was. Hawkes wrote:

I was not aware that Jamaica possessed any specimens of this
extraordinary Baobab tree, until I received a letter from Mr. C.
Bernard Lewis, Director of the Institute of Jamaica. This read,
in part, "I am concerned about the safety of the Baobab tree
which is growing on the side of the gully by Munroe Road. For
a number of years we have been calling it to the attention of
the KSAC officials and up until recently, although bulldozers
had been working around it, it appeared to be relatively safe.
Now they have come quite close to the tree, and appear to
be undermining it. I mentioned this to Mr. Theodore Sealy, the
Editor of The Daily Gleaner who knows the tree quite well,
and I am sure he would support us in our representation to
try to save it."




Not everyone knows that
Jamaica's largest producer of
alumina and the largest milk
producer are one and the same
company: Alcan.
That's because Alcan
diligently restores mined land,
and uses it for agricultural
operations. In fact, most of
Alcan's 30,000 acres are under
agriculture, employing overthree
hundred Jamaicans.
In 1986, besides producing
over 4 million quarts of milk,
Alcan also supplied a large
percentage of Jamaica's beef,
as well as making a significant
contribution to the horticultural
and agricultural output.
Alcan provides Jamaica with
more than just alumina. Alcan
jobs for
,,1 produce for
for export
Fr to benefit
i ."-! Jamaicans.


Alcan Jamaica Company II11t,
Quielly Achieving Important Goals

Member of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica

In conversation with Mr. Lewis, I find that this is presumably
the only example of the African Baobab still alive in all of
Jamaica ....
This priceless tree, certainly is unique, and an example of Jam-
aica's African heritage, is not in the path of anyone's progress
hence its destruction simply cannot be condoned ....
As has been pointed out in these pages far too frequently of
late, we are losing far too many of our precious trees, which
are absolutely irreplaceable within our current life spans. I ven-
ture to suggest that our special African Baobab tree should be-
come a special case, and that all of us join together in preserv-
ing it for our children and grand-children and indeed great-
grand children! It takes so little effort to destroy such a tree.
And these days it seems to require such a concerted public ef-
fort to preserve it!

While Hawkes was convinced that this tree by Munroe
Road was the only one alive in Jamaica at the time he wrote
the article, he does tell us that 'formerly, there was a large
specimen near Port Henderson, but this was destroyed by a
hurricane, and some seedlings seem to have died off as well.'
Hawkes's discussion of the baobab in his 21 May article
was prompted by the public response to his first article. He

After all these years I should of course have known that the
Baobab at the Mountain View Gully at Munroe Road was not
our Island's only example!

I now have authenticated reports of a total of six Baobabs in
this country, and I wonder if more will not show up, later on.
I am delighted to be put right, but am a bit embarrassed to find
that one of the handsomest young Baobabs occurs on the very
street where I reside! This was kindly brought to my attention
by Dr. A.H. Harty and is to be seen at 39 Hopefield Avenue,
Kingston 6, across the way from Campion College.

At the JHS Flower Show, Mrs. N. Hood-Daniel of Spur Tree,
told me of two Baobabs at Phoenix Hampden Estates, in Tre-
lawny, from which she had not long ago obtained a ripe fruit.

And then, finally and most important, there are two Baobab
trees in the grounds of the Convent of Mercy Academy,
"Alpha", on South Camp Road, Kingston 4. There is a small
one at the Boys' School, and at the Girls' School there is an
absolutely magnificent huge tree! This was brought to my atten-
tion by a kind letter from Mr. Bill du Mont, Games Master at
the institution.

I visited the Phoenix Hampden Estates in the midst of the
flooding in June. I did a tour of the estate (which at that
time was reduced to mud) and I spoke to the employees and
staff but I was unable to locate the two trees that were said
to be there. Another attempt was made by Dr. Allen Jacobs
of Montego Bay, but this too was unsuccessful.
I was successful in locating the two trees at Alpha and as
Hawkes indicated, they are magnificent, especially the tree
at the girls' school which matches some of the most beautiful
specimens I have seen anywhere.
In his article Hawkes said that the tree at the boys' school
was a small one, but it is not. I was surprised to see an enor-
mous tree some sixty feet tall that was thirty-three feet in
circumference measured at about three and one-half feet
from the ground. This is one of the largest baobab trees I
have seen in the Caribbean. Sister Marie Therese who is in
charge of the boys' school said that when she first arrived in
1939 it was already a large tree. Unfortunately, a good third
of the tree which had grown over the roof of one of the
buildings had been chopped off sometime between the end

of April and the beginning of May 1986 and the pieces, some
of which were quite large, were strewn all around the base of
the tree. Noel Herman, a guidance counselor at the school
said the branches had been cut because they were damaging
the zinc roof of the print shop by resting on it and by the
trampling of the boys who climb the roof to get at the fruits,
the pulp and seeds of which they eat. The only other place I
know of in the Caribbean where the fruit is eaten is St. Croix
where the pulp is used to make a drink, which is sold in the
Christiansted market. The boys also used the flowers to play
a game called 'keep up' They compete to see who can bounce
a flower up and down on the top of the foot the most
times. The flower when used in this context is called 'sea-
way lash'. When I saw the tree on 5 June, it was full of new
leaves but there were no fruits, due perhaps to the fact that
the boys eat them. The tree was flowering, for it had buds,
and I saw a few withered flowers on the ground amidst the
tangle of scattered branches.
The tree at Alpha girls' school is a spectacular one of im-
mense size and remarkable beauty and is among the most
impressive examples in the Caribbean. The remarks of Leon-
ard Webb, a night watchman at the school shows that it has
not escaped attention:

You think a one or twosmadi come yacomesnap [photograph]
dis tree man. Lawd! Yes sir, nuff, nuff. For de 20 years me
de ya very seldom you no see smadi come snap dis tree.

The tree which is about fifty to fifty-five feet in height is
relatively short for its enormous girth which is forty-eight feet
in circumference, when measured at approximately three feet
from the ground. I estimate the tree to be 150 to 200 years
old. It could well have been planted during the time of Hinton
East. Sister Mill Delores who came from Malta to teach at
Alpha said that the tree 'was as big as it is now' when she
first saw it in 1913. On the north and northeastern side of
the tree there were many young leaves intermingled with
large yellowing leaves and for much of the rest of the tree,
there was a great mass of mature green leaves. I saw only one
mature fruit on the tree. Leonard Webb said he has seen
people collecting the fruits during the season although he did
not know why. There were numerous flower buds on the tree
along with blooms in various stages of decay, and these were
also to be found on the ground.
On 3 October I saw the tree again and it seems as if it had
just as many flower buds and blooms as I had seen four
months earlier. Sister Irene who is the art teacher is in a good
position to observe this tree closely and she said that it flow-
ered most in September and October and that there are many
withered blooms on the ground at that time. The one signifi-
cant difference I observed between 5 June and 3 October
is that there were many young fruits that were in the earliest
stages of development.

Bees frequently establish their hives in baobab trees and
this was no exception. Another reported characteristic of the
baobab, that in Africa it frequently grows in close association
with the tamarind tree, was also borne out here: three tamar-
ind seedlings were growing between its large roots. The work-
man responsible for the area said that in 'cleaning the bush'
that springs up around the base of the tree, he had removed
such seedlings before.
It is clear that this unusual tree has become an important
part of the school memories for the students of Alpha girls'

Appreciating ou

he hydroelectric plant is a prime ex-
ample of man's innate ability to har-
ness nature's resources and transform
them into goods and services for his
own use. In this case, man applies the
knowledge of his technology to the
energy potential of the natural re-
source, transforming it into electricity
through a non-pollutive process. Here, the resource is water,
a precious commodity essential to man's daily existence. Man
drinks it to quench his thirst, sprinkles the earth with it to
grow his crops and pumps it to serve his industries.
Rapids and waterfalls are often located in the rugged interior
of our hinterland. But dedicated Jamaican hydrologists, geo-
logists and engineers have not allowed the difficult terrain to
hinder their work and have trekked through heavily forested
regions in their search for sources of water vital to the national
hydroelectric programme. Hydropower plants, however, are
not a recent phenomenon to Jamaica.
The first plant was constructed in 1898 just six years after
the first local public electricity supply system was developed
here. This plant was built on the Rio Cobre near Bog Walk in
St Catherine and had a capacity of 1 megawatt. Though small
in size, it represented the beginning of the contribution of
hydropower to the national electricity system.
Hydroelectric plants since that time have been generally
small because of the quantity of water in our rivers. Up to
1959, six other plants were built Morant River Plant in 1920
(250 KW); Upper River Plant in 1945 (3.25 MW); Roaring
River Plant in 1949 (4 MW); Lower White River Plant in 1952
(4.75 MW); Rio Bueno Plant in 1956 (2.5 MW); and the
Maggotty Falls Plant in 1959 with a capacity of 6.4 MW. Apart
from the Morant River Plant which served the Serge Island
Sugar Estate, all plants were connected to the National Grid.
During the 1960s, interest in local hydropower develop-
ments waned because of the low cost of petroleum. The oil
price increases of the 1970s, however, diverted world atten-
tion to alternative sources of energy among which was hydro-
electricity. Jamaica was no exception, particularly in view of
our excessive dependence on imported fuel to satisfy our
energy requirements. Beginning in 1976, several studies were
carried out to determine the hydropower potential of Jam-
aican rivers in general. Arising out of these studies, interest was
rekindled in the Old Morant River Plant, the spillway of which
is shown above.
An eternal symbol of man's quest to harness the potential

Lr environment

.. _. -

of his environment and use it for his own benefit, the hydro-
electric plant stands as testimony to this. Together, man and
nature work in harmony for the creation of electricity, a
foundation upon which lies the development of modern
Shaping the future today
in everything we do


School. Anyone who sees the tree cannot fail to note, as
Hawkes did [May 1970] that:
Alpha girls past and present have carved initials all over the im-
pressive bulk, and when I visited it again the other day, its bark
was plastered with posters urging students to vote for this or
that candidate in a special school election.

Seventeen years later the students are still carving their
names on the tree though they also now use spray paint. For-
mer student Vanessa Soarez (1977) left a record of what she
thought the tree meant to the students. In Hibiscus the
school's newspaper (1:1) she wrote:
Sturdily and proudly amongst all the beautiful Alpha girls he
stood. A graceful figure, tall, dark and handsome, just the right
qualifications. It was as if he was whispering sweet music in
their ears, for they all smiled, seated around him, all bewitched.
The . Baobab . had made more conquests.
For many years, it has provided cool shade for the students
who all love to sit on the benches built in a circular shape
around it . . This 'cool dude' is the joy and pride of every
Alpha girl, I'm sure. And you know now why Alpha girls are
so strong-willed and determined, who wouldn't, 'having been
so husbanded.

A wooden ladder goes from the top bench into the crown
of the tree where students go to sit and to carve or paint
their names on the trunk and branches. I was told that the
ladder was originally built as part of the props for a play that
took place in and under the tree. A look through the Alpha
yearbook reveals that the tree is a favourite spot for clubs,
organizations, and classes to have their photographs taken.

While the boys use the flowers to play 'keep up', the girls
traditionally use the flowers in their various art projects, a
fact that was noted by Hawkes in 1970. The tree is ideally
located for the purpose because it grows directly in front of
the art room. Sister Irene told me that the girls do drawings
and watercolours of the flowers which they also mount on
shingles after the petals have been taken apart and shellacked
to strengthen, preserve, and colour them. Sister Irene said the
girls often prefer the dried flowers in their projects because
the fresh ones produce a horrible odour '.


My efforts to date have only confirmed the existence in
Jamaica of the four baobab trees illustrated in this article.
My initial review of the literature and my own experience
suggest that there are more trees that have not yet been iden-
tified. It is clear, however, that no matter how many trees
we discover, we will never reach a situation where we can
agree with Macfayden in saying that the baobab is 'frequent-
ly to be met with'. Whatever the actual number, I think it is
reasonable to conclude that the baobab is, in fact, a rare tree
in Jamaica, although it was first reported some 200 years
ago. The baobab is a remarkable tree with many uses, and it
should definitely be more widely cultivated in Jamaica and
throughout the Caribbean.

1. I hope that this article will encourage others with information
on the location of other trees or their history to contact JAM-
AICA JOURNAL or the Institute of Jamaica.
2. For basic information on the babobab see Chevalier [19061,
Owen [1970, 19741 and Wickens [19791.

3. The heights of trees presented in this paper are rough estimates
but the circumferences (and the distances from the ground at
which they are measured) were all determined by the use of a
tape measure.

ADAMS, C. Dennis, Flowering Plants of Jamaica, Mona, Jamaica:
University of the West Indies, 1972.
ASPREY, G.F., and THORNTON, Phyllis,"Medicinal Plants of
Jamaica", West Indian Medical Journal, 2:4, 1953.
BARHAM, Henry, Hortus Americanus, Containing an Account of the
Trees, Shrubs and other Vegetable Products of South America
and the West Indies, and particularly of the Island of Jamaica,
Kingston, Jamaica: Aikman, 1794.
BROCKWAY, Lucile H., "Science and Colonialism: The Role of the
British Royal Botanic Gardens in Empire-Building", The City
University of New York: Ph.D. dissertation, 1977.
BROWNE, Patrick, The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica, 1756.
New York: Arno Press, 1972.
CHEVALIER, A., "Les baobabs (Adansonia) de I'Afrique continent-
ale", Bull. Bot. Fr. 53, 1906.

EDWARDS, Bryan, The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British
Colonies in the West Indies, Vol. 1, II, 1793.

EYRE, Alan, The Botanic Gardens of Jamaica, London: Andre
Deutsch Ltd., 1966.
GREY, Robert and HUBBARD, Tracy, List of Plants Growing in the
Botanical Garden of the Atkins Institute of the Arnold Arbore-
tum, Soledad, Cienfuegas, Cuba, Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1933.
HARRIS, William, "Notes on Fruits in Jamaica", Bulletin of the
Department of Agriculture, 2: 6, 1912.
HAWKES, Alex D., "Save Jamaica's rare African Baobab tree", Daily
Gleaner, 16 April 1970.
"Exceptionally rare plant", Daily Gleaner, 21 May 1970.
LONG, Edward, The History of Jamaica, 1774. New York: Arno
Press, 1972.
LUNAN, John, Hortus Jamaicensis, 2 vols, St. Jago de la Vega: Gazette,
MACFAYDEN, James, The Flora of Jamaica, vol. 1., London: Long-
man. Vol. 2 (unfinished) 215 pp. Printed in Jamaica 1850.

MORRIS, D., "Cultivation and Distribution of Economic Plants",
Annual Report of the Public Gardens and Plantations for the
Year Ending 30th September 1883, Jamaica: Government
Printing Establishment, 1884.
OWEN, J., "The Medico-social and Cultural significance of Adansonia
digitata (Baobab) in African communities", African Notes 6:
1, 1970.
"A contribution to the ecology of the African baobab", Sav-
anna 3: 1 12, 1974.
POWELL, Dulcie, The Botanic Garden, Liguanea (With a Revision
of Hortus Eastensis), Kingston: Institute of Jamaica, 1972.
The Voyage of the Plant Nursery H.M.S. Providence 1792-
1793, Kingston: Institute of Jamaica, 1973.
PROCTOR, George, Personal Communication, 1986.
SLOANE, Sir Hans, Catalogus Plantarum Quae in Insula Jamaica
Sponte Proveniunt .... London: Brown, 1696.
A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, St. Chris-
tophers and Jamaica, London: B.M., 1707-1725.
WEBSTER, Aimee, Caribbean Gardening and Flower Arranging
(With Special Reference to Jamaica), London: Spottiswoode,
Ballantyne, and Co., Ltd., 1965.
WICKENS, G.E., "The use of the baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) in
Africa", Proc. IX Plenary Meeting of A.E.T.F.A.T., Las Palmas
de Gran Canaria, 18-23 March 1978. 1979.


Western Responses to Death

ver the past two decades
'the study of responses to
death has become popu-
lar in the Western world. One reason for
this is the increasing number of studies
in social history exploring how people
respond to the everyday concerns of liv-
ing. Another is that recent changes in
responses to death have stimulated in-
vestigation of the subject.
Jamaican society is one of multi-
cultural elements. But the island has
been steadily influenced by the culture
of the Western world, as an English
colony from 1655-1962 and more
recently by the impact of the culture
of the United States. So, it is of rele-
vance to study patterns of Western
responses to death in a Jamaican con-
Many questions can be raised concern-
ing responses to death. For example:
What perceptions do people have about
the dead, the meaning of death and the
possibilities of immortality? What emo-
tions do people express concerning
death? What symbols are used to depict
perceptions and emotions? A survey
of responses to death in Jamaica from
the seventeenth century to the present
will show that there is a wide range of
answers to these questions. There has
been considerable change in the patterns
of responses over time, reflecting the
changing influences of religion, art,
architecture, literature, medicine and
economics all of which affect par-
ticular practices relating to death.

The cemetery is an obvious and
interesting source of information con-
cerning responses to death. The types
of monuments to the dead, patterns of
burial, iconography and the content of
inscriptions reveal much about how
people react to the dead and death.
This article deals mainly with data
taken from the St. Andrew Parish
Church cemetery, with some references
to the monuments of other parish


St. Andrew Parish Church
Cemetery: a case study

The most striking feature of the cem-
etery is that the community of the liv-
ing is closely reflected in the 'com-
munity of the dead.' One of the elements
of social life that is translated to the
cemetery is that of family relationships.
Family members are quite often buried
in close proximity. Sometimes the
family tombs are joined by a shared
base, and/or railed around, and some-

times double vaults are used for spouses.
Wealth and status of families is also pre-
served, and is evident by the position of
monuments and the materials of which
they are made.

During the seventeenth and eight-
eenth centuries the wealthy buried their
dead and/or erected memorial stones
inside the church as opposed to the
churchyard. As late as the early twentieth
century it was still common for memo-
rial stones and plaques to be placed

L_ _ __

in a Jamaican Context
By Elizabeth Pigou

.- -----

--,- .- -


inside the church. Up to the end of the
nineteenth century marble was used for
the monuments of the wealthy and brick
for others. Since the early twentieth
century, concrete has been the dominant
material, but those who can afford it
erect marble headstones on concrete
bases. More rare are monuments made
completely of marble. The architectural
styles of the living are reproduced for
the dead; when changes in architectural
trends occur, these are reflected in the
styles of the monuments.

The cemetery then, serves to maintain
links between the living and the dead.
The deceased is still valued and his or
her accomplishments and family rela-
tionships are recorded and preserved.
Tombstones mark not only a place of
burial, but assert the social position of
deceased persons and locate their place
in time. Tombstones also reflect the
attitudes of the bereaved to death.

One particularly interesting feature of
the St. Andrew Parish Church cemetery

concerns women. References to heaven
and the presence of God are made more
often on tombs of females than males
especially of wives. Statements about
the accomplishments and positive char-
acteristics of individuals are directed
most frequently at mothers. And,
statements of affection and sorrow are
also made most by the bereaved relatives
of women. Certainly feminists should
find no cause to criticize the treatment
of women in this graveyard! These are
some of the general characteristics of
the tombstones which have been studied.
It will be of interest to make a brief
survey of more specific patterns since
the seventeenth century.

Seventeenth Century Trends
There were two predominant influ-
ences on responses to death during the
seventeenth century. One was the very
high rate of mortality at that time. The
other, religious, involves three separate
elements one was a perception of
man's littleness and God's omnipotence,
which resulted in a willingness to accept
all events as being meaningful in terms of
God's overall plan. The other two ele-
ments were the effects of the Reforma-
tion and of English Puritanism.

Mortality rates had a clear influence
in shaping the nature of the seventeenth
century aesthetic response to death -
that is, the nature of iconography and
symbolism. Frequent deaths and short
life spans were common in both Western
Europe and Jamaica during that period.
The high death rate was a recurrent
theme in the letters and travellers' books
of seventeenth century Jamaica. One
writer summed up the situation by call-
ing Jamaica a 'Grave'. [Hickeringill
1661 p.1].
The average seventeenth century per-
son could expect to live a short life and/
or see several friends and relatives
die within his or her life span. This prox-
imity with death was intensified by the
fact that there were no professional
hospital services to care for the dying,
or undertakers to dispose of the dead,
so the average person would also be very
likely to see and handle corpses.

In this light it is understandable that
the popular seventeenth century repre-
sentations of death were skulls and
bones which depicted the reality of
physical death and decay. Other symbols
included the hourglass, which symbolised
the passing of time; the scythe, which

depicted the cutting down of life; and
the spade, signifying burial. Interestingly,
angels and other depictions of heaven
were absent. The appropriateness of
the context of the contemporary ex-
perience of mortality may have been
reinforced by the influences of the Re-
formation and of English Puritanism.
Both these religious influences dis-
couraged the elaborate representation
of the afterlife in so far as this verged
close to making 'graven images'. In
these circumstances the use of tombstone
iconography which stressed the physical
aspects of death is understandable.

A typical inscription of the seven-
teenth century would read as follows:

Here lieth the body of Mrs. Ann Sleigh
wife of Mr. Samuel Sleigh who departed
this life the 10th of May Anno Domino
1687 and in the 69th year of her age.2

An interesting feature is the opening
phrase; 'Here lies the body of,' which
with variants such as 'Here lies interred
the body of . was the popular con-
vention of the seventeenth century. This
phrase, as well as the skull/bone motif
found on Jamaican tombstones of that
time, draws attention to physical death
and decay. Other interesting features of
this type of inscription are its simplicity
and the absence of emotional content
or references to heaven or immortality.
In this regard the influences of Puritanism
are again significant. Just as the icono-
graphic treatment of the afterlife was
restricted, so also were literary referen-
ces. Puritanism also discouraged open
emotionalism and placed a high value on
self-control hence the simple inscrip-
tions of the period. The willingness
with which the people of that time ac-
cepted all things including death as a
part of God's will is very evident from
their literature. This may also have dis-
couraged expressions of sorrow. Seven-
teenth century monuments to the dead
were not only simple in terms of in-
scriptions or iconography, but also in
terms of tomb architecture. The tomb-
stones found in Jamaica for this period
are all single slabs usually made of mar-
ble with no headstones.

Eighteenth Century Trends
The monuments of the eighteenth
century reflected revolutionary changes
in attitudes to death and the dead.
These changes which had their origins
in England and Europe were closely
followed by the Jamaican elite. Many


,I' rY<- t- y

S ixtere nt

woodcut and
., i details (above
"al stand ges) oif

B Spanish
S. Town
a .a. ,Cathedral.
members of the plantocracy now
placed memorials to relatives and friends
inside churches in the form of elaborate
wall tablets in which the changes in
attitudes were first indicated. The stark
symbolism of the seventeenth century
was replaced by the ornate motifs of
the neoclassical style. Paralleling the
revival of neoclassicism in art and
architecture, monuments portrayed the
decorative elements of Greek civilization
featuring miniature classical columns,
urns, pediments, mourning figures and
cherubs. These main motifs were ac-
companied by a variety of secondary

shells, foliage, flowers and

By the middle of the century the
tombstones -- where the style of the past
era had persisted for much longer -
also reflected the new attitudes. The
simple slabs marking the remains of a
body gave way to large, elaborately
decorated structures.

After the middle of the century the
format of inscriptions also began to
show new features. For example:

Sacred to the Memory of Anne, the
Dutiful and Affectionate Daughter of
John Clement of Petersfield in the
County of Southhampton Esquire and
the truly Virtuous, much beloved and
lamented Wife of George Ramsey
Esquire, Register in Chancery and
Clerk of the Patents in this Island: She
died of the Small Pox on the 14th day
of August 1764 Aged 32 years And was
buried within the Cummunion Rail of
this Church.

It was the tendency for the inscrip-
tions of the second half of the century
to be far less simple than those of earlier
decades. Details in praise of the character
and accomplishments of the deceased
were added. The emotions of the be-
reaved were openly expressed and the
opening format 'Here lies the body
of . .' was replaced by phrases such as
'Sacred to the Memory of .. 'and 'To
the Memory of . .'.

The most striking difference between
the eighteenth century, responses to
death as opposed to the seventeenth
century is aesthetic. The mode of decor-
ation and symbolism had changed: skulls,
bones, spades and hourglasses were no
longer popular, neither was simplicity. In
terms of the perception of the meaning
of death, both centuries shared the com-
mon-sense realization that death is the
end of mortal life. But by the end of the
eighteenth century another aspect of this
perception was expressed; death as the
disruption of social relationships. The
mourning figures of tomb iconography
stressed the grief of the bereaved as did
the statements of sorrowand lamentation
found in inscriptions. The new conven-
tion in opening phrases stressed the bond
of attachment between the bereaved
and the deceased through memory. In
terms of religious ideas, the seventeenth
century concept of resignation to God's
will did not appear to be popular in the
literature on death of the later period.
While representations of heaven were not
popular during this period either, one
interesting tombstone showed a de-

piction of a woman's spirit being re-
ceived by angels.

So far as the changes in the content
of inscriptions are concerned the pre-
dominant influence was the Romantic
Movement of the latter part of the
century, which stressed a greater aware-
ness and freer expression of personal
emotions. Hence the more profuse
statements of attachment and sorrow.
No doubt such, emotions were also felt
in the seventeenth century, but it was
considered inappropriate to express
them. The Puritan restraints which had
limited iconography and the expression
of emotion had given way to more lavish
styles of decoration and literary expres-

Nineteenth Century Trends
The use of neoclassical forms in monu-
ments to the dead continued to be
popular throughout the first half of the
nineteenth century. The more elaborate
outdoor monuments later in the century
were also constructed in the classical style.
They were made in the shape of sym-
metrical chests with columns at each
corner and decorated with various clas-
sical motifs; some were constructed
entirely of marble. Those who were
unable to afford marble erected square
tombs of brick with a marble slab on
the surface bearing the inscription.
Inscriptions on the whole retained
the characteristics which had been
popular in the second half of the
eighteenth century. The emphasis was
on statements pertaining to the affec-
tion and sorrow felt by the bereaved
and their attachment to the memory of
the deceased. Occasionally some features
of the seventeenth and early eighteenth
centuries were used, but the predomi-
nant style of the early nineteenth
century derived from the popular Ro-
mantic and neoclassical influences.

After the first quarter of the nine-
teenth century however, signs of change
became apparent. Clergymen in England
criticised the style of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries in general and
of neoclassical architecture specifically.
[Burgess 1963, pp. 34-37].

None of the old symbols was deemed
worthy to represent Christian faith and
hopes. They advocated the cross which
stood for the death and Resurrection
of Christ as the most appropriate deco-
rative motif for tombstones. They also

Monuments of the mid-nineteenth century
(above) and early twentieth century (below).
St. Andrew Parish Church.

criticised the lengthy inscriptions which
put great emphasis on the worldly ac-
complishments of the deceased and
expressed seemingly hopeless sorrow on
the part of the bereaved. They advocated
that inscriptions should be shorter and
contain Christian sentiments. Evidently
these criticisms had a profound effect.
For after the mid-nineteenth century
there was a change in tombstone archi-
tecture in both England and Jamaica.
The symmetrical and heavily decorated
classical style gave way to the asym-
metrical, high-gabled style of gothic

architecture; these gothic tombs were
often surmounted by crosses.

Inscriptions also changed, with a
greater emphasis on biblical quotations
and religious sentiments. Statements of
affection and sorrow did not disappear,
but tended to be simpler in form and
shorter. The most popular category of
religious statements were references to
heaven and resurrection. For example:
'I know that he shall rise again' and, 'In
the hope of a Joyful Resurrection, Asleep
in Jesus.' Also interesting is that the
concept of resignation to God's will re-
turned to popular use in literature con-
cerning death, such as funeral sermons,
and the phrase 'Thy Will Be Done' and
similar statements were used on tomb-
These outward features in tombstone
iconography and inscriptions reflected
significant shifts in responses to death.
The root of these shifts was predomi-
nantly religious. A conscious effort was
made to bring the perception of death,
the emotions in response to death and
the iconographic response to death in
closer harmony with Christian teach-
ings regarding death. Emphasis was

placed on the afterlife of Christian
faith, that is, on death as a step towards
immortality. In the light of this, hope
was considered the most appropriate
emotion to express, as opposed to the
grief which had characterized the late
eighteenth and early nineteenth cen-
turies. The cross, which symbolized
resurrection and new life, was therefore
considered the most appropriate symbol.

Twentieth Century Trends

This gothic style of commemoration
continued to be popular until the end
of the 1920s after which tombs were
constructed in a simple symmetrical
style again reflecting trends in archi-
tecture. They consisted of one to three
rectangular tiers on a base, with a raised
or inclined headstone. Many tombs have
been undecorated in recent decades,
and where decorations are used,
the motifs are crosses, flowers, leaves
and angels in that order of popularity.
Since the 1920s concrete has become
the most frequently used material
for the construction of the body tiers
of tombstones, although marble is some-
times used for headstones. Other ma-
terials used to a lesser degree are ter-
razzo, tiles and granite. Popular head-
stone types since the decline of the
gothic style have been inclined scroll
shaped slabs, or open books, plain in-
clined slabs and vertical square slabs.
Inscriptions have been simpler since
the second half of the century, some
with only the name and dates of birth
and death of the deceased given. The
most popular opening phrase among
inscriptions is 'In Loving Memory of. .'
a convention which still reflects the
attachment of the bereaved to the
deceased. Statements of affection and
sorrow have continued to be popular
and have increased slightly in the second
half of the century, but the lengthy in-
scriptions of the late eighteenth century
have not been revived. References to
heaven and the presence of God are still
made but have been less popular since
the 1960s. Explicit references to resur-
rection have been rare in the second half
of the century. These changes in the re-
ligious content of inscriptions may be
due to the challenges to Christian faith
which seem to be particularly marked
in the twentieth century. While literary
references to heaven and resurrection
seem to have lessened, religious icono-
graphy is still a popular choice among
decorative motifs. However, the majority
of tombs since the 1960s bear no deco-
rative motifs. Two of Kingston's marble
workers3 attribute this mainly to the
high costs involved in choosing more
ornate stones. They feel that when
symbols are chosen they are of signifi-
cance to the bereaved: the cross still sig-
nifies resurrection, angels mean heaven
and flowers and leaves mean life, com-
fort and affection. The open book type
of headstone is popular and most peo-
ple who choose it associate it with the

Bible. Although on the whole the
religious content in inscriptions seems
to have declined, especially references
to resurrection, religious motifs are
still appreciated by some people.
An interesting characteristic of twen-
tieth century disposal of the dead has
been the introduction of memorial
parks and crematoria. Both are designed
to provide disposal with the maximum
gains in terms of utilization of space,
maintenance and aesthetics. The memo-
rial park lends a somewhat different
character to the traditional cemetery.
Large monuments are replaced with
small nameplates. The park with foun-
tains and spreading lawns is not intended
to resemble a burial ground. Names
given to the plots of one such park are
quite interesting the Court of Free-
dom, the Garden of Memory, the Orien-
tal Garden and the Court of Serenity.
The memorial park offers less scope for
the variety of styles of commemoration
described above for the traditional
cemetery. Iconography is excluded and
much less can be said about the deceased.
However, family relationships may be
preserved through family plots and
wealth and status may be reflected by
the particular court or garden at time
of writing ranging in price from $1650
to $2100 that is chosen. However, it
may be noted here that while modern
trends reduce the scope of the com-
memoration of the dead in burial
grounds, newspaper memorials have
become increasingly significant as a me-
dium of commemoration.

There have been many changes in the
responses to death over the past three
centuries. The style which characterized
the seventeenth century was one of sim-
plicity and self-control blended with a
practical depiction of the reality of phy-
sical death. This simplicity was replaced
by a quality of lavishness in the eight-
eenth century, when decoration was
ornate and emotions were treely expres-
sed. The nineteenth century brought
criticisms of this opulent style of
mourning, simplicity returned and reli-
gious content was deemed appropriate,
emotions were expressed but in a lower
key. It is difficult at this stage to fully
summarize twentieth centurytrends, but
it would seem that rationalist challenges
to Christianity have diluted the religious
content of inscriptions as compared with
the preceding century. Basic simplicity
in commemorative style has been re-

trained and has been encouraged by ris-
ing costs of materials and workmanship.
Considerations of space, maintenance
and aesthetics have created alternative
means of disposal of the dead.
An interesting question is whether
there is any underlying pattern or logic
relating to these changes. This cannot
be fully dealt with here, but a few points
may be made. To some extent change
has been due to discrete or 'chance' in-
fluences, such as rising costs of com-
memoration in the twentieth century.
Other changes have come about in
direct response to contemporary pat-
terns, for example, clerical criticism of
neoclassicism and encouragement of the
gothic style. One undercurrent which
seems constant since the early eigh-
teenth century is the tendency to super-
impose symbolic perceptions of death
beyond the mere facts of cessation of life
and decay. There has been no revival of
the seventeenth century references to the
body or mortal remains of the deceased
or to its iconography of skulls and bones.
Although there have been varied pat-
terns as described, on the whole, since
the eighteenth century the dead have
been treated with great sentimentality.
Tombs have been lavishly decorated and
images of immortality have been prefer-
able to images of physical death. In the
twentieth century burial plots may be
known as a Court of Serenity. It is an
open question whether these tendencies
simply mean that Western society has
become more creative in dealing with
death or whether the euphemisms and
sentimentality reveal an abhorrence of
physical death.


1. References from other churches are taken
from Lewis [3].
2. St. Andrew Parish Church cemetery.
3. Interview with marble workers at Hylton's
Marble Works and Wallace's Marble

BURGESS, Frederick, English Churchyard
Memorials, London: Lutterworth Press,
HICKERINGILL, Edmund, Jamaica Viewed,
London 1661.
LEWIS, Lesley, "Commemorative Sculpture in
Jamaica", Jamaican Historical Review,
Vol. IX, 1972.



Sin the Jewish

Cemetery '

i and what ;

They Tell

Fig. 16

By Betty Bailey
Photographs by Ernest deSouza

ombstones can provide a
great deal of information
about societies at the time
they were erected. They are important
for artistic reasons, for what they tell
about the attitudes of contemporary
society to death, and as a source of
genealogical and historical information.
This article sets out to examine what
the tombstones in the Jewish cemetery
at Orange Street in downtown Kingston
reveal of the attitudes of the Jamaican
Jewish community to death, of the
changes in the social status of this com-
munity and of their cultural and reli-
gious practices over nearly 160 years -
the period 1820-1979. The information
collected will be examined to see how
far the social, cultural and religious
life of the Jews in Jamaica has been af-
fected over the years by the Western-
Christian bias of Jamaican society and
the extent to which the Jews have been
able to maintain their individual and
cultural identity.

The Jews in Jamaica
The earliest Jews in Jamaica were
Sephardics from Spain and Portugal
who came with the earliest Spanish
settlers and practised their religion in
secret. [DePass-Scott 1979]. Hearne
and Nettleford [n.d.] point out that 'in
line of continuous descent, the Sephar-
dic Jews pre-date any other families in
Jamaica's history. They were here when
the English conquerors arrived, and
were, alone of the island's white popu-
lation, allowed to remain, in undisturbed
possession of their property and con-
duct of their occupations.' After the
British conquest in 1655 the Jews were
able to practise their religion openly.
They were regarded as important in
Britain's plans for settlement of the
colony and by the Windsor Declaration
of 1661 became 'full citizens of Britain'
having the same rights as any of her
'natural born subjects'. This allowed
them to own property which was one of
the incentives used to attract Jews and

other colonists to the island. The Jewish
inhabitants of Jamaica were exclusively
Sephardic until about the 1770s when
Ashkenazic (Eastern European) Jews
began to arrive. Jewish immigration
then appeared to have ceased or greatly
diminished until the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries when new
immigrants came from Syria, Egypt
and other middle eastern countries. [See
Andrade 1941, DePass Scott 1979,
Schlesinger 1967].
The Jewish identity at this time is
in danger of disappearing; there is little
or no new blood entering the com-
munity which is now without a rabbi.
There has also been an increase in the
rate of intermarriage between the Jews
and the Christian community. As Schle-
singer [1967 p.52] observed, 'many of
the children of prominent members of
the Jewish community [have] married
Christian Jamaicans, who did not convert
to Judaism'. Thus it seems possible that
'the history of the Jamaican Jewry, with


1. !e

Jews in Jamaica 1735-1981



Sources: Andrade [1941 ],Caribbean Quarterly
[1967], personal interview Ernest DeSouza.

its long history of freedom, and its rela-
tive isolation from other Jewish com-
munities, have made it conducive to
complete assimilation'.

The Orange Street Cemetery
Disused Jewish cemeteries and burial
grounds are to be found all over Jamaica.
The only cemetery now in use is located
in the central Kingston area of the city,
at Orange Street, just below Torrington
Bridge. (Fig. 1).

The oldest tomb to be found in the
cemetery, that of Judah Cohen (situ-
ated right against the wall in the old
Spanish and Portuguese section) is dated
September 1822, suggesting that the
cemetery was opened around that time.

Looking at the Tombstones
A study was done of a sample of 207
out of approximately 1,500 grave
memorials in the cemetery, representing
seventeen per cent. This yielded inform-
ation that is believed to be fairly repre-
sentative of the type of memorials to be
found there from c.1820 when it was
opened until 1979 when the study was
The sample was selected from rows
which were chosen so that they would
in some cases include special features,
such as the different styles in grave
memorials and decorations, and in order
to get at least five memorials falling with-
in each decade of the period covered. The
main information recorded was the in-
scription, a description of the state of
the memorial and of the inscription, a

*d ",

Fig. 1
description of the type of memorial,
and where possible of the stonecutter.
Not all the graves in each row were re-
corded as a number of them were either
overgrown or collapsed, and many of
the rows in the older section ended in a
thick overgrowth of shrubs and weeds.
Some of the graves had no date be-
cause part of the monument was mis-
sing or because the date had not been re-
corded or was indecipherable. Wherever
possible an approximate date was given
to such stones, based on the dates of
the memorial immediately preceding
and following them. The Orange Street
cemetery, like other Jewish cemeteries,
follows a symmetrical arrangement of
rows as far as possible (given the irregular
landscape and the presence of trees)
since grave sites are regulated by the
synagogue authorities and proceed on a
row by row basis, though it is possible
for family plots to be reserved. Child-
ren are also buried in a specially re-
served section.
Despite the discrepancies and other
shortfalls of the data, it is still possible
to draw a number of conclusions which
can be widely applicable to the period
being studied. The analysis will be based
on the assumption that the decorative
elements of the grave memorials are in
part a function of religion, and therefore
changes in this aspect of culture can be
investigated as they relate to other areas
of change which occur in the social, eco-

nomic and cultural life of the com-
munity (in this case the Jewish com-
munity). Thus it has been found that
changes in some of the epitaphs which
express values regarding death are gener-
ally in harmony with changes in the
design of the stones. Other information
contained in the inscriptions, such as the
dates of birth and death, allows one to
determine the general age at death among
the Jews. A careful study of the names
recorded helps to demonstrate whether
over the years the Jews succumbed to
some amount of acculturation (reflected
by increasing adoption of Western names
and the use of fewer Jewish ones), or
whether they were able to maintain their
identity in this respect

Changing Patterns in
Grave Memorials

Change in Shape

The most noticeable change has been
in the shape and design of the grave
memorials (see Fig. 2). From 1820 to
1859, all the memorials were basically
what we will call type A, i.e. simple altar
tombs with brick sides up to approxi-
mately four feet in height, and with
marble tops. The only variation was in
the actual marble memorial which would
either cover the whole brick structure
(about sixty-four per cent of cases), or
be reduced to a marble plaque with the
rest of the top covered in mortar. After


the 1850s, other variations in design
began to appear, the major one being
the introduction of a humped mortar
covered top instead of the typical flat
top. Although this design became in-
creasingly adopted over time, the
marble-topped altar tombs remained
popular to the end of the nineteenth
century. (Fig. 3).
As the use of the altar tomb design
declined other types such as humped
altar tombs (type B) and the pitched
tombs (i.e. type C) became more popu-
lar (Fig.4) but these intermediate de-
signs did not last very long, and were
gradually replaced by the second major
design to be found, i.e. the more modern
ledger type grave memorials (type D),
found from the 1890s to the present.
These are basically flat stone slabs with
one or two tiers (sometimes three), and
a headstone. (Fig. 5). There are a number
of variations on the basic ledger design.
They include upright, inclined and flat
headstones which themselves may be
found either inclined or upright, and in
some cases, may even cover the length
of the tomb itself. There might also be
a square or shield shaped marble plaque
mounted on an inclined concrete base,
or lying flat.
The material of these stones also vary
to a greater degree than that of the altar
tombs. Although most of them were
wholly marble, some were concrete with
just a marble headstone or plaque, while
others were a combination of ceramic or
terrazzo tiles, concrete and marble, and
yet others were of granite and marble,
and in one recorded instance, of granite
with metal lettering.

During the period from the mid-
nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century,
another variation appeared (type E).
These were generally flat graves cover-
ed with either concrete or grass, with
upright marble headstones in the case of
the grass, and flat marble memorial
plaques (mostly name only) in the case
of the concrete tops. Those with upright
headstones sometimes have a kerb out-
lining the grave itself (see Fig. 6). Within
this group a number of variations, main-
ly in the design of headstones, are to be

After the mid-nineteenth century, a
number of other types of grave memo-
rials were increasingly used (i.e. type F)
varying in size, shape and design. They
include pyramid shaped columns, angels,
broken columns and carved granite, etc.
(see Fig. 7,8,9).

Grave Memorials of The Orange Street Cemetery

Type A Altar Tomb
(Predominant 1820 to c 1899)

Type B Humped Altar Tomb
(Predominant 1860-1909)


marble top

__ I
ML +i I 4

Type C Pitched Tombs
(Predominant 1880-1929)

2' 1

Type D Ledger
(Predominant 1890- present)

i '1 1 I

Type E Flat Rectangular. /_
(Predominant 1910-1949) marble

Type F Other forms of Grave Memorials. (Intermittent.)

Fig. 2

rig. 4


Fig. 5
, '

Fig. 6

^? c -^ .fr

i; t, < - -" '

Fig 7

Fig. 9

Fig. 8

marble plaque

Upright marble headstone

marble headstone



Fi. 10


Fig. 18
These changing styles in the design
' of the tombs accompanied by similar
Sa changes in designs of headstones, more
S readily reflected general changes in
architectural design than changes in
the attitudes of the Jews as a social
group and their attitudes to death.
However, given the fact that the very
Orthodox Jews tended to prefer very
S simple graves, as is still the case, the
trend to more elaborate tombstones after
the 1850s seems to reflect a weakening
of the Orthodox influence within the
Jamaican Jewish community, and a
greater acceptance of the general trends
set by the larger society.

Change in Decorations
For the first half of the nineteenth
century the Jewish tombstones were
very plain, the only decoration, if any.
being Hebrew lettering. By the 1860s,
however, other forms of decoration
were introduced, such as flowers and
foliage and some Jewish symbols such
as the Cohen blessing and the Shofar
i.e. the ram's horn blown at special cere-
monies. (Fig. 10-12). After this period
also some of the more secular western
types of grave decorations were intro-
duced such as the willow and urn, the
draped urn, and in one case an engraved
portrait and cherubs. Flowers (such as
lilies and roses) and foliage (e.g. vine
leaves), angels and cherubs also grew
in popularity. (Fig. 13-16). By the 1960s,


Fig. L OCEIN(,

Fg~ r 11 llrla


r .sI

however, the tombstones again be-
came very simple with little or no
A number of unidentified mound
graves were found within the period
1820-1979. In most cases they are sur-
rounded by shells (symbolic of rebirth)
and in some instances by bricks or stones.
Most of these mounds belong to Jews
too poor to afford a tombstone; others
possibly to people who wished their
graves to remain unmarked and as simple
as possible, while some found in the new-
Ser sections could be fairly new graves
Awaiting the erection of tombstones.

The overall change in the design of
the grave memorials can therefore be
said to follow the general trend from
the simple between the 1820s and
1860s (represented by the very plain
altar tombs) to the elaborate (1850-
1950s), seen in the various new designs
and shapes to be found during this period,
especially in the form of elaborately
carved headstones, and then back again
to the simple after the 1950s with
the ledger tombs and their relatively
unimposing headstones.

The lack of any real decoration up to
the 1860s, and in general, is due mainly
to the fact the Jews were forbidden to
make images to portray anything out-
side of the arabesque, plants or syna-
gogal objects (e.g. the Shofar and Meno-
rah). This was in keeping with the second
commandment, 'Thou shalt not make
unto thee any graven images'. How-
ever this was not always adhered to,
especially after the 1860s (see Figs.
17, 18).

The use of effigies increased in the
later periods (especially at the beginning
of the twentieth century) as more and
more angels cherubs and other engraved
or carved figures came into use. This
therefore reflects a gradual liberalization
of Jewish practice as a result of the in-
creasing influences of the Christian-
Western culture. This has been found
not only in Jamaica, but in other Jewish
cemeteries, such as in Curacao, and
especially those in Northern Europe
e.g. Amsterdam.

Changes in the Inscriptions

A number of changes can be observ-
ed in the inscriptions of the tombstones
over the period, which tell more about
changes in the attitudes to death and in
the attitudes of the Jews at a cultural
level, than do changes in the actual style

-~.p~ 9 IONE5, ~AILN1

Fig. 12

Fig. 13


Fig. 13 3

Fig. 14


Fig. 15

?~b~; L~~ ~?~I

: ~9
" I~



'0Yn 1.3 '70' '-DT3O7
BORN 17'-~CH' '902
WEOD S'-Y 1955

Fig. 9

of the tombs which responds more to
developments in architectural design.

One of the most noticeable features
is the paucity of Hebrew inscriptions
and dates. The long run trend is a decline
in their use. with a reduction in the use
of Hebrew dates being even more rapid
and marked than the use of Hebrew
inscriptions. In fact, nowhere in the
sample was there an inscription which
was totally Hebrew, or a tombstone on
which the use of Hebrew exceeded that
of English. In those cases where Hebrew
was used, they were mainly stereotyped
phrases such as 'may his soul enjoy
eternal life' or 'may he rest in peace'. In
some instances where the Hebrew ex-
ceeded one or two lines, it was a trans-
lation of the English inscription (see
Fig. 19). The majority of the inscriptions,
i.e. approximately ninety per cent,
recorded the Gregorian date only, while
twenty-nine per cent of those inscrip-
tions up to 1919 included both Hebrew
and Gregorian dates. Only one instance
was found with the date in Hebrew only,
on the tomb of Sarah Sollas who
died on the 22nd Kislev 5619 (i.e. 23
Dec. 1959).

As with the use of Hebrew dates and
inscriptions, there is also a noticeable
decline in the use of Jewish (or biblical)
names. This decline in the use of biblical
forenames such as Sarah, Jacob, Rebecca
and Moses, is accompanied by a rise in
the use of Western names. After 1837
more children were being given names
such as Helen, Ralph, Alan and Violet.
Thus one can say that over time there
has been a decline in the use of Jewish
language, seen in the decrease in the use
of Hebrew inscriptions and dates, and
the decline in the use of uniquely Jewish

All of this reflects a gradual erosion
of the Jewish cultural heritage and its

replacement by the Western-Christian

Less obvious changes have also oc-
curred in the actual form and content
of the inscriptions. The information
given in the inscriptions has become in-
creasingly less. Up to the end of the
nineteenth century, inscriptions were
generally short, but would give the
name of the deceased and, with only a
few exceptions, the day of death. A few
of the inscriptions would also reveal the
civil state and marital status of the de-
ceased and most revealed age. Some also
mentioned details pertaining to com-
munity and state service, and still others
gave some indication of the customs of
the Jamaican Jews. During the twentieth
century, however, in some cases the
tombstone bears only the name of the
deceased, and in one case towards the
end of the nineteenth century (c.1890)
the full name was not given; the de-
ceased was identified simply as 'Aunt

A noticeable change has also taken
place in the initial statements, as the use
of 'Here lies the body of' or 'remains of'
was replaced by 'sacred to the memory
of', which in turn was gradually replaced
by 'In memory of', or 'In affectionate
loving, never fading, memory' which is
the current format being used.

Changes in the use of kinship terms
also occurred over the period following
a trend similar to that observed in
colonial cemeteries by Deetz and Deth-
lefson [1966]. Up to the late nineteenth
century, women and unmarried child-
ren were identified in terms of their
husbands or parents: they were 'wife
of' or 'relict of', 'son of', 'daughter of '
etc. Between 1850 and 1909 this strong
paternal and marital emphasis seems to
have broken down and a brief period of
sexual equality was reflected in the use
of Mr and Mrs, or the deceased's name
only After this period a completely
new trend developed where individuals
were being referred to as 'mother' or
'father of' individuals still alive, and in
some cases, 'aunt', 'uncle' or 'sister', in-
dicating a filial bias in the perception
of the deceased. Throughout the whole
period from 1820 to 1979, however, the
majority of male tombstones were
generally inscribed with names only,
with no kinship affiliations indicated.

Fairly consistent throughout the
whole period studied has been the atti-
tude of the Jews to resurrection, after-

life, and death itself, as reflected in the
inscriptions. Jews have an ardent faith
in God, and believe in immortality of
the soul, future life, resurrection of the
dead, and in divine reward and punish-
ment, all of which have been expressed
in the epitaphs. Belief in immortality
is commonly expressed, as seen for
example on the tombstone of Manasseh
Brandon who died in 1838 and is de-
scribed as having quittedd his earthly
tenement for blessed immortality'. On
the tombstone of Verona Calnek, hope
in eternal life was expressed as 'It is
sweet to know we will meet again where
partings are no more'. A resignation to
death and to the divine will of God was
expressed on many as, 'Thy will be done',
and on the grave of Eva DePass (1864)
who 'like a wither'd flower of winter -
bloomed, but faded ere 'twas eve, to re-
turn to him who lent her'. Belief in
heavenly reward and punishment was
also shown in some inscriptions; 'Life's
race well run, Life's work well done,
Life's crown well won' (Augustus Sam-
uel 1928).

Although the inscriptions reflect con-
sistency in the attitudes to death, over
time they have become shorter and
changed in content. Inscriptions or epi-
taphs describing the character, achieve-
ments and virtues of the deceased,
and hope of resurrection, etc. have
gradually been reduced to simple ex-
pressions of the regret of the relatives
and friends left behind at the loss of the
loved one, to finally only a statement of
the name and date of death, sometimes
giving the name only.

These changes would seem to be con-
sistent with what has been described as
a gradual or growing depersonalization
of death and the dead. Whether these
changes represent a depersonalization in
the attitudes towards death is a more
difficult question to answer.


This study of the Orange Street Jewish
Cemetery has revealed a number of
trends in a) the attitude of the Jews to
death, b) their social status and c) their
cultural and religious heritage. Their
attitude to death has been fairly con-
sistent throughout, as reflected in a
number of ways, especially in their epi-
taphs. But changes have been observed
in their status and cultural and reli-
gious heritage over time, demonstrating
a greater relaxation of traditional Jewish
practice, and increasing adoption of

more Christian Western attitudes and

The period between the 1870s and
1900s represents a transitional period
not only in grave design and decoration
but also in the attitudes of the Jews,
since this period also marks a reduction
in their Jewishness. It is the period in
which little or no Hebrew inscriptions are
to be found on the tombstones, and also
one in which the use of Western names
became predominant. Thus it is possible
to conclude that the period c1870-1900
represents the time of greatest accultur-
ation of the Jews by the larger (Christian-
Western) society. This period is marked
by the adoption of symbols such as
angels, the draped urn design, and the
use of flowers to decorate the tomb-
stones. This is a definite move away
from the simple undecorated tomb-
stones of the earlier periods inherited
from Spain by the Orthodox Sephardic
Jews represented in the altar tombs.
In this transitional period the Jewish
community itself underwent a number
of changes as the Ashkenazic Con-
gregation joined together with the rem-
nants of the original Spanish and Portu-
guese Congregations to form the United
Reform Jewish Congregation. At this
time also the Jews began to take an ac-
tive part in the political life of the coun-
try, as may be deduced from the tomb-
stones of The Hon. David Brandon, who
died in 1862 and The Hon. David Samp-
son 1924.

The Jews of Jamaica when compared
with other Jewish communities in the
Caribbean such as Curacao, have not re-
tained much of their traditional heritage
and practices and have been subject to a
greater degree of acculturation. Because
of their long history of freedom and
their relative isolation from other Jew-
ish communities after World War II,
(after which there was no influx from
outside) the Jamaican Jews have suc-
cumbed to almost complete assimil-
ation by the Jamaican society.

While there has been a change in the
status and cultural attitudes of the
Jews with their acceptance by the
larger society, their attitude towards
death appears to have remained fairly
consistent throughout. They have con-
tinued to view death as just another
phase into which they become united
with their God. This has been reflect-
ed in the numerous expressions of
hope in being reunited with depart-
ed friends, family and God. One aspect

of their beliefs which has undergone
a drastic change however, is their be-
lief in the resurrection of the body.
While their belief in resurrection has re-
mained, the view that this will be of the
whole body seems to have undergone
some rationalisation to permit cre-
mation on demand, a practice which
was previously forbidden under the
Orthodox system. Although crema-
tion is now permissible, there seems
to have been only one case of this ever
having taken place here, and this was
during the 1970s.

It has been suggested by Deetz and
Dethlefson that changes in the style and
decorations of grave memorials repre-
sent changes in the attitudes of the
society to death. For example, they
found that the adoption of angels and
cherubs reflected the move away from
the belief in death as being final, to see-
ing death in connection with the resur-
rection of the soul and in relation to
eternal life. For the Jews in Jamaica,
one cannot so easily conclude that
changes in design and decoration of
the grave memorials reflect changes in
their attitude to death. This is because
their adoption of many of these decor-
ations is based more on economic and
cultural changes, and may be the result
of convenience rather than a reflection
of a change in their attitude to death.

In this study it was unfortunately
not possible to examine such useful vari-
ables as the origins and costs of the
tombstones themselves. This would have
helped to tell more about the economic
standing of the people under study, and
to explain why certain trends and styles
were to be found. A study too, of the
actual stonecutters, i.e. who they were,
where they were located and whether
they were Jews or Christians would have
proved enlightening in the final analysis,
if only to show how far the tombstones
actually reflected the peculiar tastes and
preferences of the Jews, or how far they
were determined by the cutters them-
selves or the wider society from which
they originated.

The general consistency of the atti-
tude of the Jews in Jamaica to death
over the years and their slow rate of
acculturation can be attributed to the
very strong cultural and religious heri-
tage upon which their lives and beliefs
are based. Thus they were able to resist
the forces of acculturation for a number
of years. However, as a result of their
acceptance by the larger society many

of their present practices, if not their
beliefs have shown their gradual adoption
of Christian-Western attitudes and prac-


ANDRADE, J., A Record of the Jews in Jam-
aica from the English Conquest to the
Present Time, Kingston, Jamaica, 1941

COULTHARD, G.R., "The inscriptions of
Jewish Gravestones in Jamaica", Jam-
aica Journal 2:1, March 1968.

"Death's Heads, Cherubs, and Willow
Trees: Experimental Archaeology in
Colonial Cemeteries", American Anti-
quity 3., Jan. 1966.

"Death's Head, Cherub, Urn, and
Willow", in Robert Schuyler (ed.)
Historical Archaeology, New York,
De-PASS-SCOTT, Rosemarie, "Spanish Por-
tuguese Jews of Jamaica, Mid 16th -
17th Century", Jamaica Journal, 43,

EMMANUEL, Isaac S., Precious Stones of the
Jews of Curacao 1656-1957, New
York, 1957.
Encyclopaedia Judaica Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
"Our Heritage" in Jamaica Heritage,
Government of Jamaica, n.d.
HURWITZ, J., "The New World sets an ex-
ample for the Old The Jews of Jam-
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American Jewish Historical Quarterly
55:1, September, 1965.
"A Beacon for Judaism: The First
Fruits of the West", American Jewish
Historical Society, 1966.
JONES, Jeremy, How to record graveyards,
London, 1976.
LEWIS, Sandra, "Changing Patterns in Tomb-
stone and Monumental Inscriptions
and Decorations in Jamaica with
specific reference o the St. Andrew
Parish Church and Spanish Town
Cathedral 1650-1950", Caribbean Study,
U.W.I., 1980.
MERRILL, Gordon, "The Role of Sephardic
Jews in the British Caribbean Area dur-
ing the 17th Century", in Caribbean
Studies 4:3, Oct. 1964.
SCHLESINGER, Benjamin, "The Jews of
Jamaica: A Historical View", in
Caribbean Quarterly 13: 1, March
TRASK, Deborah E., Life How Short, Eter-
nity How Long: Gravestones Carving
and Carvers in Nova Scotia, The Nova
Scotia Museum, 1978.
WRIGHT, P., Monumental Inscriptions of
Jamaica, London, 1966.


SN ote on Edna Manley, The Dead. 1940. Wood. Private collection.

Afro- Jamaican Beliefs and Rituals

he majority of Jamaica's
population consists of
Afro-Jamaicans, the des-
cendants of West African slaves brought
here between the seventeenth and nine-
teenth centuries to provide labour for
the plantation economy. The African
presence was also enriched by the arrival
of free immigrants from Africa in the
late nineteenth century. Africans enter-
ing Jamaica naturally brought with
them their native beliefs and rituals rela-
ting to death./The beliefs and practices
of migrant peoples will normally under-
go some changes due to contact with
the new physical and social environments.

The position of enslaved peoples is es-
pecially vulnerable, due to their ex-
posure to forces which attempt, with
at least partial success, to control and
remould them.

" Africans in Jamaica have therefore
had their responses to death subjected
to the forces of change. These forces
were threefold: first, the physical re-
moval from the native base of their
traditions; second, the influences of
Christian missionary activities; and third,
the general cultural value placed on
European ideals and behaviour as op-
posed to African. Over the past three

By Elizabeth Pigou

centuries Afro-Jamaicans have moved
basically, in one of two directions; either
towards complete acculturation in Euro-
Christian responses to death, or towards
the integration or co-existence of both
African and Euro-Christian traditions.
Some elements of the African tradition
have also continued in existence to the
present [Brathwaite 1978; Price and
Mintz 19761 .It is these elements, and
the forms of Afro-Christian integra-
tion, which are the concerns of this

The basic West African/Afro-Jam-
aican beliefs concerning death are as

1. The individual has three 'com-
ponents' body, spirit/soul,
2. Death is an extended event,
marking the end of mortal life,
and the passage to immortality.
3. At death the spirit returns to the
Supreme God and joins other
spirits. This phase is perceived as
being a type of journey.
4. At death the duppy or shadow
wanders for several days, after
which it must be laid to rest by
special rites. If these rites are not
carried out, the duppy may wan-
der indefinitely and is capable of
carrying out evil acts, through the
manipulation of sorcerers or
through natural and psychicpheno-
mena. During the interval between
'clinical death and the time the
duppy is laid to rest, the individual
is not considered fully dead. The
purpose of funeral rites is to secure
the safe journey of the spirit as
well as to placate the duppy.

Very distinctive in African and Afro-
Jamaican culture is the intense belief in
the world of spirits and duppies and their
interaction with the living. This has pro-
duced two reactions. On the one hand,
the spirits of the dead are greatly res-
pected. Communication with them is
considered essential and is achieved
through rites involving spirit possession.
Possession by ancestral spirits takes place
at funeral rites as well as all other im-
portant community events particu-
larly as an aspect of worship. On the
other hand, because of the potentially
evil nature of duppies, there is a distinc-
tive fear of the dead. The greatest evil
duppies are considered capable of is the
infliction of death. So there is a wide
range of ritual acts designed to protect

the individual and community from
duppy-inflicted death. There is a distinc-
tive fear of death not only in itself
- but as an unnatural event caused by
supernatural agencies involving duppies.

Slave Funerals

There are several lengthy descriptions
of slave funerals in Jamaica between
the seventeenth and nineteenth cen-
turies. These descriptions show close
affinities with funeral rites described in
West Africa. It is not possible to quote
these descriptions at length here. Be-
low is a brief summary of the chief fea-
tures of Jamaican slave funerals with
brief extracts from some contemporary

1. The custom of 'carrying the corpse':
sometimes the coffin-bearers, . pre-
tend that the corpse will not proceed
to the grave, notwithstanding the ex-
ertion of their utmost strength to urge
it forward. They then move to different
huts, till they come to one the owner
of which they know, has done some in-
jury to, or been much disliked by the
deceased in his life-time. Here they ex-
press some words of indignation on
behalf of the dead man; then knock at
the coffin, and try to sooth and pacify
the corpse: at length, after much
persuasion, it begins to grow more
passive, and suffers them to carry it
on, without further struggle, to the
place of repose [Long 1740 pp. 420-
27] .
2. Funeral phase of ritual mourning.
all both Men and Women which ac-
company the Corps, sing and Howle
in a sorrowful manner in their own
language [Taylor 1689 p. 544].

3. Offering of libations and sacrifices
and communication with the de-
ceased at the gravesite:
being com to the grave, into which
they gently put the Corpes, and with it
Casavar bread, Rosted Fowles, Sugar,
Rum, Tobacco & Pipes with fier to
light his pipe withall, and this they doe
. in order to sustain him in his Jour-
ney beyond . in their own Contrey
. After this they fill up the grave ...
singing in their own Language . de-
siering the dead Corps to aquint their
Father, Mother, Husband, & other
relations of their present condition.
ibidd] .

4. Funeral phase of ritual joy after

when the deceased is interred the plain-
tive notes of sympathy and respect are
no longer heard; the drums resound
with a livelier beat, the song grows
animated and cheerful; dancing and
apparent merriment commences, and

the remainder of the night is spent in
feasting . [Stewart 1808 from pp.
247 ff].

5. Mourning period after interment fol-
lowed by second ceremony at the
when the deceased is a married woman,
the husband lets his beard remain un-
shaved, and appears rather negligent in
his attire for the space of a month; at
the expiration of which a fowl is dressed
at his house, with some messes of good
broth, and he proceeds, accompanied
by his friends to the grave. Then begins
a song, purporting that the deceased is
now in the enjoyment of compleat feli-
city; and that they are assembled to re-
joice at her state of bliss, and perform
the last offices of friendship. They
then lay a considerable heap of earth
over the grave, which is called covering
it, and the meeting concludes with
eating . drinking . dancing . .
After this ceremony is over the widow,
or widower, is at liberty to take another
spouse immediately; and the term of
mourning is at an end [Long 1740
pp. 420-27].

6. Funeral rites involved music, dance
and incantations on a large scale -
as some of the above extracts show.

These ritual features may all be re-
lated to the specific African beliefs con-
cerning death and the dead. The jour-
ney of the spirit was conceived of in
highly literal terms, and the spirit was
considered to have real needs and to be
able to communicate. Hence, the of-
fering of sacrifices, pouring of libations
and placing of food for the deceased,
because the spirit required both the
offerings and the goodwill of the liv-
ing and the goodwill of other deities
and spirits who acknowledged the sacri-
fices made. The concept of a journey
and the aspect of speaking with the
spirit and wishing it success in its jour-
ney developed new features in the con-
text of slavery. These were the belief
that the spirit returned to Africa and
the new custom of sending greetings,
via the spirit, to relatives in Africa. The
accounts also relate that slaves were
willing to commit suicide and looked
forward to death as a release from sla-
The custom of carrying the corpse
relates to the belief in the capacity of
the spirit to have wishes and desires and
to be able to communicate them. It also
relates to the need to please the depart-
ed spirit and remove any cause for its
acting maliciously towards the living.
Hence the necessity of settling debts
and grievances through this ritual.

The separate ritual phases of mourn-

ing and festivity and the post-burial rites
are accountable in terms of the per-
ception of death as a prolonged event,
which consists of (a) the separation of
the body, spirit and duppy; (b) a transi-
tional phase before the spirit reaches the
spirit world and (c) a final phase when
the spirit, assisted by the proper rites,
reaches the spirit world. The mourning,
especially on the part of the spouse,
not only expressed grief, but served to
protect the mourner from vindictive
acts of the spirit. Since the spirit had
not yet completed its journey it was not
yet content; mourning rites inflicted
suffering on the kin of the deceased and
protected them from the potential jeal-
ousy of the spirit. The joy expressed at
the end of the post-burial rites symbol-
ized the final separation of the spirit
from the world of the living to its proper
place among other ancestral spirits. Fes-
tive behaviour before and during the
first funeral ceremony seems to have
had the purpose of entertaining the
spirit, but it does not appear that the
spouses or near kin of the deceased
participated in this. Post-burial rites
were important, without these rites the
spirit would not be able to reach its
final destination. Neither would the liv-
ing be able to continue regular activities,
as the spirit would return to inflict
Finally, music played an important
role during African funerals. Songs
addressed to the spirit persuaded it to
act favourably towards the living. Drum-
ming was important as the means of
summoning other ancestral spirits to
participate in the funeral rites.1 These
traditions have not, of course remained
intact, given the circumstances imposed
upon African cultural forms.
The adoption of and adaptation by
Africans of Euro-Christian features was
first noted by Edward Long in the 1740s
with regard to Myalists. Space does not
permit here a more detailed examin-
ation of the content of Myalism. How-
ever, it is interesting to note that the
Myalists had developed a ritual of death
and rebirth:
by drinking a mixture of cold water
and the herb-branched calalu and then
dancing until they reached a state of
dissociation resembling death. The
application of another mixture to the
body revived the candidate. [Long
1740 p.419].
This ritual was supposed to protect
Myalists against death inflicted by
Europeans. It was one feature in a reli-
gious movement which incorporated

Christian features of Baptism, the Holy
Spirit and millenialism, with African
features such as spirit possession and
catching of duppies. Myalists preach-
ed that they were doing God's work,
and were trying to put right a 'contrary'
world. Their activities in general, and
their rite of death/rebirth in particular
are interesting. Whereas the first Afri-
cans in Jamaica had dealt with the con-
ditions of slavery by readily committing
suicide and by looking forward to death,
and in fact saw death as an important
means of escaping slavery, Myalists were
not so ready to face death. They seized
on aspects of Christianity which were
meaningful to them and created a reli-
gion which, in combination with Afri-
can traditions, sought aggressively to
counteract the impact of slavery, and
specifically of death inflicted by their
masters [Schuler 1979].
The blending of African and Christian
traditions in religion continued through-
out slavery, for instance in the form of
Native Baptist movements, and after
slavery, for instance, in the Great Re-
vival of 1861 [see Chevannes 1978].
Twentieth century Revivalism owes its
roots to these earlier forms and exhi-
bits interesting features in relation to
responses to death. The following is a
brief extract of a Revivalist funeral ritu-
al described by George Eaton Simpson
[1980 pp. 201-204]:

Since the spirits of the dead may af-
fect the fate of the living in import-
ant ways, it is essential that they be
treated with respect. A "set'n up" or
wake is held every night until the day
of the funeral, which is usually no later
than the second or third day. Follow-
ing the tradition of Christ's resurrection,
those who die are believed to rise on
the third night. A brief ritual is con-
ducted on this night, and a "rising light"
is put outside the house. Inside the
house a light is kept burning for nine
nights. The spirit of a dead person re-
turns to its home on the ninth night
after death, and, if it is financially
possible, lower class Jamaicans arrange
a service for that night ...

The elements of the nine night service
include a speech by the Revival Leader,
hymn singing, foot stomping, the serv-
ing of refreshments, the playing of
dominoes, card games and 'spiritual
dancing'. Other elements include the
placing of unsalted food and drink for
the spirit to consume, the placing of
water to receive the returning spirit, the
possession of some church officers by
the spirit of the deceased, and, at the'
end of the ceremonies, ritual house
sweeping and the throwing out of the

belongings of the deceased. The water
set to receive the spirit represents its
final departure and prevents its return.
The nine nights are an interesting
blend of Christian and African forms. In
one integrated rite are hymns, sermons,
references to the soul in Heaven and the
role of Christ in helping the soul to this
place, along with African derived rites
for placating the duppy of the deceased.
The placing of food for the spirit, the
recognition of an intermediate state
between clinical death and the final
departure of the spirit, and the rites
which mark this final departure are all
reminiscent of earlier descriptions of
slave funeral rites. These Afro-Christian
rites diverge from traditional African
rites in that while traditional rites placed
almost all the emphasis on the duppy-
element of the dead person, Afro-
Christian rites also gave significance to
the soul's journey to God.

Kumina Funeral Rituals

So far as funeral rituals are concern-
ed the most distinctively African groups
in Jamaica at present are recognized as
those belonging to the Kumina cult.
Their funeral rituals include the offer-
ing of libations, animal sacrifices, drum-
ming, spirit possession and the singing
of African songs. Two graveside cere-
monies are held in Kumina funeral ritu-
als. The first is for the burial of the
body. This ceremony may contain some
Christian elements such as the reading
of the scriptures and the singing of
hymns. In some areas, such as the
Plantain Garden River district, Kumina
members sing African mourning songs
at the burial service:

O, Mboongo man Kudila
Se weele maama el
Koongo man Kudila
Se weele nkuundi
Koongo man Kudila
Se weele deh a deh.

African man is mourning
He has gone mother mother, eh!
Kongo man is mourning
A friend has gone
Kongo man is mourning
He has gone over there [Schuler

The second graveside ceremony is the
'tombing' ceremony when concrete is
poured over the grave thus 'sealing' it.
No Christian elements enter the tomb-


ing rites; animals are sacrificed on the
grave, libations are offered, the sealing is
done to the accompaniment of drum-
ming, all to secure the final resting of
the duppy and prevent its return to
harm the community.

Grave Decorations

As late as the mid-nineteenth century,
references were made to distinctive
forms of African grave decoration:

In a negro burying ground . there
was scarcely a grave that did not exhi-
bit from two to four rudely carved
images [Phillippo 1843 p.282].

These wooden images have long since
disappeared, and this practice no longer
exists. However, there are several very
old graves in the Port Royal Parish
Cemetery which show interesting ele-
ments of a blending of African and
Christian forms. The headstones of
these tombs are wooden usually cros-
ses and are in a state of decay. These
headstones bear crudely carved inscrip-
tions. The grave mounds are covered
with conch shells. These shells are of
interest in view of similar examples of
Afro-American graves in the United
States [Vlach 1978 p.139]. The sea-
shells have a special significance in Afri-
can thinking, they symbolize water
which is a habitat of spirits. Hence, an
African motif of the spiritual realm is
blended with the cross a Christian
motif of the spiritual realm.

Superstitions Associated
with Death

Apart from funeral rites and grave
decoration, other African traditions
concerning death in the forms of super-
stitions, folk tales and proverbs are still
evident up to the present. Some beliefs
concerning duppies are:

1. After a person has been dead for
three days, it is believed that a
cloud of smoke can be seen rising
out of the grave; this becomes his
duppy, ghost, or shadow.

2. Never talk loudly at night, or a
duppy will catch your voice and
injure you.

3. Do not throw water outside at
night, without first giving warn-
ing to the spirits.

4. If a duppy is in the house, burn
rosemary bush, cow dung, and the
horn of an animal, and the duppy
will leave [Barrett 1976 p.43].

However, in the realm of superstitions
there is also room for cultural integra-
tion. As Beckwith noted, one method of
getting rid of evil duppies is to call the
name of God or Jesus. Beckwith [1929
pp. 89-90] also listed omens of death,
which include the dreaming of a tooth
or a wedding and the breaking of a
green bush.

Death in Folklore

It is not possible to quote fully here
examples of folk tales describing the
adventures of Anancy with Death and
Bredder Duppy. Such tales give vivid
illustrations of the power of duppies,
and in spite of being 'tall tales' give a
very down to earth philosophy of life
- and death. For instance, in "Anancy
and Death", death is cast as an old man,
from whom Anancy begs food. At the
beginning of the story 'Death say noting
but jus' sit dere and sit dere'. So Anancy
goes ahead and helps himself to what he
likes, not recognizing that the old man
is Death. Not until Anancy sends his
daughter to cook for the old man, and
then discovers that the old man has
eaten her, does he realize in what close
proximity he is to Death.

An' A nnancy run
An' Death run
A n'A nnancy gallop
An' Death gallop
A n'A nnancy jump
An' Death jump.

Death follows Anancy home and suc-
ceeds at catching all of Anancy's family,
in spite of their efforts to escape. In this
tale Anancy manages to escape, but in
other tales he was not so lucky!
Anancy's story is true to life. For
people do often go about their affairs
without giving much thought to death.
I hen death pounces, and though one
may run, gallop and jump as Anancy
did, ultimately there is no escape. Folk
proverbs also express an awareness of
the finality of death, its certainty, and
the power of duppies. For example:
Man de walk, dead dey watch him
[Beckwith 1969 p.55] .
A man nyam well, but duppy out a de
corner a him yeye de watch him.
[Anderson and Cundall 1972 p.821 .
When man dead, him don. [ibid.].

But in spite of the certainty of death,
and its negative aspects of suffering,
grief, and fears of evil duppies, as ex-

pressed by Afro-Jamaicans, it is per-
haps fitting to close with a folk pro-
verb which expresses the concept of
'never say die': 'Dawg flea tell him pick-
ney him mustn't say him dead till him
ketch pon fingernail.' [Beckwith 1969
p.36] .


1. See Huntington and Metcalf [1979] for
a treatment of cultures which practice
similar funeral rites.

ANDERSON, I and CUNDALL, F., Jamaica
Proverbs, London, 1910; Institute of
Jamaica, 1972.
BARRETT, Leonard, The Sun and the Drum:
African Roots in Jamaican Folk Tra-
dition, Kingston: Sangster's Book
Stores, 1976.
BECKWITH, Martha, Black Roadways: A
Study of Jamaican Folk-Life, Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
Jamaica Folklore, New York: 1969.
BRATHWAITE, E.K., The Development of
Creole Society in Jamaica 1770-1820,
Oxford University Press, 1978.
CHEVANNES, Barry, "Revivalism: A Dis-
appearing Religion", Caribbean Quar-
terly, September-December 1978.
Peter, Celebrations of Death: The
Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual,
Cambridge University Press, 1979.
LONG, Edward, The History of Jamaica,
London: 1740.
PHILLIPPO, J.M., Jamaica: Its Past and Pre-
sent State, London: 1843.
PRICE, Richard and MINTZ, S., An Anthro-
pological Approach to the Afro-
American Past: ACaribbean Perspective,
Institute for the Study of Human Issues,
SCHULER, Monica, "Myalism and the African
Religious Tradition in Jamaica" in M.
Crahan, F. Knight (eds.) Africa and the
Caribbean: The Legacies of a Link,
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1979.
," 'Yerri, yerri, Koongo' A Social
History of Liberated African Immi-
gration into Jamaica 1841-1867". Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Wisconsin,
SIMPSON, George Eaton, Religious Cults of
the Caribbean: Trinidad, Jamaica and
Haiti, Rio Piedras: Institute of Carib-
bean Studies, 1980.
TAYLOR, John, Life and Travels in America,
STEWART, James, An Account of Jamaica
and its Inhabitants, London: 1808.

VLACH, J.M., The Afro-American Tradition
in Decorative Arts, Cleveland Museum
of Arts, 1978.


Dinki Mini

By Laura Tanna with interviews by Hazel Ramsay

. \ J P ancing in Africa invariably
.I B has a religious signifi-
cance. It forms an indis-
pensable accompaniment of all funeral
rites' observed Captain Rattray in his
writings on Ashanti customs [Williams
1934 p.186] Certainly in contemporary
Jamaica the greatest African survival
are to be found in the dances and ac-
companying songs associated with rituals
of death.
Any religious system holds a deep
power over its believers, but a further
explanation exists for the persistence of
African dance in Jamaica today. Profes-
sor Rex Nettleford [1985 p.20] cogently
makes the case that 'dance was a primary
instrument of survival' because it was a
creative activity which depended upon
an individual's own body and:

the language by which the body ex-
presses itself does not have to be any-
one else's language, least of all the
master's . . A hold on any activity
beyond the control of a cynical power
structure is a valuable weapon of cul-
tural self-defense. The art of dance,
comprising the dancer's own body
movements informed by his own spirit-
ual and emotional states, is such a
weapon. Allied with music . the
dance takes on compounded energy
as a source for survival.
Dinki Mini, Gerreh, Zella, Kumina,
Buru, Tambu, Mbeele, Myal all are
activities which include dances of African
heritage t ill surviving in Jamaica, dances
which have themselves contributed to
the survival of Jamaicans of African an-
Little has been published on the sub-
ject of the Dinki Mini activities surround-
ing death, perhaps because of its speci-
fic identification with the one parish of
St. Mary. Ivy Baxter [1970 p.211] is
one of the few published authors to
mention Dinki Mini and notes:
After burial, there would be a series of
watches before the final set-up on the
ninth night, when the soul of the de-
parted would be bade farewell. In some
parishes of Jamaica, especially in St.
Mary, this kind of set-up had the name
'Dinkie Minnie'. The Dinkies, in con-
trast to set-ups in other localities in
connection with death, were always
joyous occasions, full of singing, dan-
cing and ring-games to cheer the be-
reaved [1970 p. 211].

According to Cassidy and LePage
[1980], the etymology of Dinki Mini is
uncertain but they suggest that it may
come from the Congolese word 'ndingi'
meaning a lamentation or funeral song
and define it as 'a type of ring-play or
dancing usually practised in connection
with funeral ceremonies; also the cere-
monies themselves'.
In the course of the Jamaica Memory
Bank's work of trying to document as
much of Jamaica's unwritten heritage as
possible, Hazel Ramsay has on several
occasions over a period of years inter-
viewed Kirby Doyle, the leader of the
Roadside Dinki Mini, one of only two
traditional Dinki Mini groups in St.
Mary, the other being the Rose Bank
Traditional Dance Group. Mr Doyle
describes Dinki Mini in his own words,

Dinki Mini come off a like yu have a
dead? People use to go a dead yard,
when dem have nine night. So dat build
up from off a de death of Tacky. Dey
say de Dinki Mini, de culture, start to
develop from dat [Interview, July
Tacky is a ole slave, a man who fight
rebellion in slavery coming from Morant
Point, in de time wid Paul Bogle. So
after dem have de walk from Morant
Point to Spanish Town, dem come an
dem mek after Tacky. Dem have a fall-
ing, down at Gere River, same Road-
side, same Roadside falling, water run
over dere, dey call Crawl River. De
white men dem say dat im Tacky die,
over de falling, for dere's a cave, over
de falling where im go an go unda an
hide. Didn't find him and say, 'Well,
im dead'. So dem turn back. An after
dem turn back, it tek several months,
im leave from dere an goin out at a
place dem call Whitehall, fe go High-
gate some Whitehall copra house -
and when im go out deh now, dem
saw dis man an dem say 'dis is Missa
Tacky' and is deh so dem sassinate
im [Interview 28 August 1986] .

Mr Doyle confuses the slave rebellion
led by Tacky in St. Mary in 1760 [Rey-
nolds 1972] with the Morant Bay
Rebellion of 1865 but in his mind it is
clear that Dinki Mini gained its promi-
nence in St. Mary during the funeral
celebrations to honour a hero who died
in the fight against slavery. 'After the
death of him', continues Doyle:

de people dem jus in de area,same area,
speak of him wi Dinki Mini. My grand-
father si dung and teach we. Dinki
Mini coming from de same work busi-
ness wid de slavery dem.
Dem have a set a men, live right up on
a hillside. Dem work field like how me
deh cultivate . with a whole ten or
fifteen men. We have a headman up
dere. Im do nothing but be singing. So
dat de music of Dinki Mini come off.
Dat headman would start de singing,
like how me a de leader now. Me start
a singin wi de music an a say : [sings]

Cuffy oh, Cuffy oh, Cuffy run
an bawl
A Cuffy tink a god a come,
Cuffy run an bawl
A Cuffy one, two, three, Cuffy
woman bawl!

Start dem working, diggin wid hoe an
pick an yu would ha dis one dey say
now: [sings]

Me say bring me half a hoe
Run, Busha wan it.
Bring me half a hoe
Come, gi me yah.
Bush man fe go plant potato.
Bring me half a hoe

Come fe me oh
When yu done yu say yu know
Bongo Yengy

Bring me half a hoe
Come gi me yah.
Bring me half a hoe
Oh Busha wan yu
Bring me half a hoe
Come gi me yah
When yu done yu say yu a
Bongo Yengy
[28 August 19861.
The traditional songs of Dinki Mini
today are what would be called digging
songs, associated in Mr Doyle's mind
with slavery because they occurred dur-
ing enforced labour and with Tacky
because he was a slave of renown in St.
Mary whose death occasioned a great
Dinki Mini. The digging songs and Dinki
songs share the same pattern of call and
response, with the leader starting and
the others responding. Only occasion-
ally does everyone sing together. Mr
Doyle says:
Dinki Mini is a ting come off a de
same diggin set-up. When me go back a
my fada-in-law tole me, im say, 'Son,
dat Dinki Mini what yu doin out dere
in de dead yard, is diggin it coming
from, yu hear. De right ting is diggin'
[July 1982].

There are two sorts of songs, one
sung, 'at de digging' and another 'at de
dead yard'. An example of the former
would be:

Ooman a eby load
Ooman a eby load
When Satiday morning come
When de money no enough
When de money no enough
When de money no enough
When de money no enough
When de money no enough

Dem long up dem mout pon yu
Dem long up dem mout pon yu
Ooman a eby load
Ooman a eby load
When Satiday morning come
When de money no enough
Dem long up dem mout pon yu
[28 August 19861.

This song, bemoaning the need to keep
a woman in money to avoid her harsh
words, is in contrast to the words of a
song sung at midnight in the dead yard:

A untie Memi oh, me hear de
A when me run go look, me hear
de bawlin

A ooman fling way man, me
hear de bawlin
A untie Memi oh, hear de bawlin
Auntie Memi oh, hear de bawlin
A when me run go look, me hear
de bawlin
A ooman fling way man, hear de
At 12 o'clock a night, hear de
At 12 o'clock a night
128 August 19861.

Note that this is the same example
given earlier in which Cuffy's (Kofe's)
name was used, or in a further example,
where Tacky's name occurs. In this way
names are altered in songs to fit the
individual circumstances of the Dinki

Doyle gauges the songs, selecting
specific ones to increase the level of
merriment needed to cheer the mourn-
ers. For instance, his group may sing:

Sambu, yellow skin gal
Loss, cyaan fine.
Sambu, yellow skin gal
Loss, cyaan fine.
Sambu, yellow skin gal
Loss, cyaan fine.

Doyle explains:
This song means when yu go to a
set-up an afta dem talk yu, yu explain
to dem what play we gwine to give de
enjoyment to de crowd. We jus gwine
go have some song and pleasure weself
out dere an have some music.

Dat story now like yu would have
a girlfriend out there an im gawn leave
yu, an fe remembrance yu jus sing,
yu just cut dat music [28 August 1986].

It was Doyle's grandfather who
used to organize the Dinki Mini for the
area's dead yards. 'If yu have a chile
dead', Doyle states:
dem come around an dem visit, an
dem SING, an dem say, 'Awright,
mek dem have ring play' a ting
where yu hole on and dance in a circle.
Dat is de way de Dinki Mini build up
[July 1982].

When Hazel Ramsay questioned
Mr Doyle as to what exactly constitutes
the Dinki Mini ('Dinki Mini, is it a ring
game, a ring play? What it is?') Mr
Doyle was adamant that the crucial as-
pect of what constituted a Dinki Mini
was the dance. He answered her ques-
tions with : 'No, de Dinki Mini is jus a
dance. De ring game now is Rocky
Road. Dat is a ting weh yu hol han an

go roun in a dance circle, circle right.
Dat is a ring game.'
When Miss Ramsay persevered: 'An
dat is also part a de Dinki?' Mr Doyle re-
plied: 'Yeah . come in a .culture.'
Ring games, riddles, Anansi stories,
and domino playing are part of the
Dinki, but to Mr Doyle, the Dinki is
foremost a dance. He remembers:
When I got de Dinki Mini, to learn it,
I was at de age of twenty. I'm 53
now, born 1933. My grandfather
taught me. Albert Doyle, im dance it.
Im was a clipper. Dat means im is a
foot man, same as how I dance. My
mada say, 'Bwoy, yu tek after yu
grandfada. Same way him can dance,
im dance every dance a dead yard im
De dancin part a it come in after de
diggin over [28 August 19861.

The Dinki Mini Dance
Hazel Ramsay describes the Dinki
Mini dance as beginning when the lead-
er and dancers walk in single file, alter-
nating sexes, male/female, forming a
circle. Everyone stoops and pats the
ground at the beginning of the dance,
'To get the attention of the group of
dancers and for them to make contact
with the earth' according to Mr Doyle
[July 19821. The leader moves in to
the middle of the circle and dances
solo. In a stationary position, one leg
is placed in front and then behind in
cross step as the other leg remains al-
most stationary. Then he moves in
front of a woman and brings her into
the centre where they dance opposite
each other before he leaves her to join
the circle. She goes to another man
and brings him into the centre and so
In her observance of the Roadside
Dinki Mini group, Hazel Ramsay de-
scribes their leader's basic dance step
as having knees bent, moving the right
foot over the left while the left foot
shuffles forward. Then the right foot is
placed behind the left while the left
foot again shuffles forward. The hips
move sideways, and even rotate while
the arms are bent at the elbows, hands
held palms up. Shoulders are erect
and rotate backwards and forwards
while the head is held straight and
eyes look ahead.
In a further movement, the part-
ners may hold hands high, turn in to
face each other and then face out,
still holding hands. The couples then
form a ring and dance counter clock-

Doyle himself points out:

Yu have all type of movements in deh.
Yu have flat-footed and yu have pon
yu toe point. When you doin de flat
move, yu wheel roun. When yu dance
on yu toe, yu go: [sings and dances]

Web im a go wear it pon, na on
Web im a go wear it pon, na on
Weh im a go wear it pon,
Buy one pair a boot, na on toe
Buy an gi di gal, na on toe
Look pon yu toe a come.
Is de way.
[28 August 1986.

These are the traditional songs and
dance steps taught to Doyle by his
grandfather: 'lm learn we dem'.
Dinki Mini dancing and singing is
accompanied by mento type music
produced on various instruments. As
Kirby Doyle explains:
De instruments are a part of it now to
build it up, to mek it more strengthen
wi de musician. Yu have de maracas
dat is de two shaka players four
maracas in all. You have the grater
man, de drummer man, de guitar man
dat is five and you have a next
man who play two pieces of stick
[July 19821.

The rattle drum plays a steady
rhythm but in Mr Doyle's case, Hazel
Ramsay reports that his group has
created their own drum set with the
top of a metal tar drum beaten out to
form cymbals which are attached with
a stick and peddle to a drum set.

The most distinctive of all the
instruments, however, is the 'Benta', a
length of approximately five feet of
the thickest part of the bamboo, play-
ed horizontally, with strings made by
slitting the bamboo itself and draw-
ing the strings up from the body, using
a wood piece to hold the strings out
from the body. Two or three people
play {he benta. One person beats the
strings with two sticks, each about a
foot long, which sets up vibrations,
while another person rubs a calabash,
a dry, empty gourd, either straight or
across the end of the strings, producing
a unique sound. A third person may be
required to hold the other end of the
Cheryl Ryman, a principal dancer
with the National Dance Theatre Com-
pany, and formerly a research fellow
with the African Caribbean Institute

of Jamaica, describes the Dinki Mini
dance as having 'two main patterns -
a circular or semi-circular ring game
form' and a free form 'open cut out'
pattern in which couples exhibit a
wide range of stylistic possibilities and
individual virtuosity. She notes [1983]:

The Dinki-Mini dance is character-
ized by two main styles which tend
to be male-dominated; 1) a 'cork-
screw' (up and down and around
simultaneously) action in the upper
torso, and a rotation in the hip, with
the feet placed one flat in front and
the other behind on the ball of the
foot and 2) a turned-in knee, drop
and brush (to the side) step which
may be extended into an alternat-
ing brush to the front and the back
while the arms and shoulders 'pump
on each brush. Both variations carry
a subtle but distinct 'impulse and sus-
pension' or syncopated quality. The
equally characteristic impulse and
'break' turn with an inclination of
the upper torso to one side, may be
interchanged with sharp pelvic con-
tact between couples.

It is this 'sharp pelvic contact
between couples' which has led to
both the popularity and controversy
of the Dinki Mini dance.
Cheryl Ryman explains that 'the
aim is to defy death by "life" great
activity with marked sexual overtones,
a prelude to "new life", in a display of
Man's recreative capacity.' ibidd.] .

Symbolic Recreation

Dinki Mini is thus a dance which
seeks to cope with death by symbolic-
ally recreating the procreative powers
of mankind and nature. Drawing on
the African use of dance to enact
deeply held spiritual beliefs, the tradi-
tional Dinki Mini dancer gave support
to the bereaved. But too often the
form of ancestral practices is left with-
out an understanding of the substance.
Daisy Edwards, who in 1979 with
Georgette Samms founded the Isling-
ton Secondary School's Dinki Mini
group, explains that through the Jam-
aica Festival Commission's highlighting
of traditional dances and the granting of
scholarships for teachers to train at the
Jamaica School of Dance, a knowledge
of Dinki Mini songs and dance move-
ments is now being passed on to child-
ren. She states:

The general attitude towards Dinki
Mini in schools is a mixed one .... In
some areas parents severely criticise the
dance believing that it expresses lewd-
ness, vulgarity and has a sexual under-
tone . . The main reason for these
beliefs though is probably ignorance of


Typical sequence in Dinki
Mini dancing showing sharp
pelvic contact. The style
and energy of the dance
emphasize the life force.

The man (left) does a
typical step knees turned
in, drop and brush to the
side while the woman does
a 'corkscrew' moving the
upper torso and hips only.

the fact that the dance is an ancestral
one promulgating aspects of our heri-
tage and has far greater significance ..
such as life triumphing over 'death'
[Edwards n.d. p. 29] .
Some of the positive factors which
have inspired Edwards and Samms to
continue their school's Dinki Mini group
is their belief that:
It allows the younger generations a
chance to perpetuate the culture of
their fore-fathers and gives a chance to
students who might not be academic-
ally inclined to achieve excellence . .
it helps students to socialize and deve-
lops self-confidence [p.25] .

Edwards notes:
It is my belief, however, that if society
as a whole is to accept the Dinki Mini
dance, they would have to be educated
about its background, development
and meaning [p.25].

Slowly, researchers are responding to
this need to inform Jamaicans about
hitherto isolated or little known aspects
of the country's heritage, and in doing
so they arethemselves discovering intrigu-
ing linkages among various customs
which beg for further exploration. For
instance, Kirby Doyle tells Hazel

Yu coming from a diggin an yu hear say
dat someone have a dead, yu know.
Every man jus stop an say, 'Wait, what
happen? We ha fe come tonight.' Den
de same diggin we coming from, den de
whole a we a group up tonight so, an
go rub likkle Zella [28 August 1986].

Now Zella is a rarely heard of dance
performed as part of the rituals sur-
rounding death in Portland, the home
parish of Mr Doyle whose family comes
from Hope Bay. The Maroon settlement
in Charles Town, Portland, practises
Zella and Mr Doyle confirms that in his
experience the Dinki Mini and Zella are
the same: 'A de same ting dem do.' Why
then the different names?

Ongoing research by the Memory
Bank, The African Caribbean Institute
of Jamaica and the School of Dance will
hopefully shed greater light on the sub-
ject. Lenneth Richards, who has been a
member of Mrs Barrett's Buff Bay Dance
Club for twelve years and is now a third
year student at the School of Dance pre-
paring a certificate paper on Zella, in-
tends to clarity these questions. Miss
Richards reports that most of the Dinki
Mini and Zella songs have the same tunes
and rhythms but may have differing
words, and that some dance steps differ
slightly. In addition, the benta is not
used in Zella.

Another dance associated with death
in the western parishes of Westmoreland
and Hanover is Gerreh. It also is charac-
terized by ring games, dancing in a cir-
cular pattern, and includes a dance in
which performers are lifted as they bal-
ance standing on two horizontally held
bamboo poles. The musical instruments
drums, grater, clogs or sticks beating
each other are the same as in Dinki
Mini but again, as with Zella, there is
no benta, which thus appears to be one
of the most distinctive features of the
Dinki Mini. Indeed, the National Dance
Theatre Company has drawn from both
Gerreh and Dinki Mini to create a special
dance which is called Gerreh-Benta.

African Customs
Death rituals in Jamaica can thus
vary depending on which ethnic or
religious group, or synthesis of several,
the rituals are derived. Since over ninety
per cent of the Jamaican population is
of African ancestry, many African cus-
toms are still observed today in form,
even if their substance is no longer
understood. For instance, Joseph Willi-
ams [1934 p.39] points out that the
traditional Jamaican custom of raising
and lowering the coffin three times be-
fore setting out for the burial ground
goes back to the Ashanti custom of
doing this 'to give Asase Ya (the Earth
Goddess) due notice and warning'.
It is little wonder, however, that
many Jamaicans no longer realize the
background and meaning of African re-
tentions since there was a concerted ef-
fort over the centuries to eliminate
them, particularly those relating to death
rituals. The Reverend William James
Gardner points out:

In 1831, night funerals were prohibited
by law: owners permitting them were
liable to a penalty of fifty pounds, and
slaves attending them to a whipping of
thirty-nine lashes [Williams 1934 p.

Gardner describes a night funeral, writ-
One or more Negroes played upon the
goomba [drum] and another, at inter-
vals, blew a horn made of a conch shell;
another took the solo part of a recit-
ative of a wild funeral wail, usually
having reference to the return of the
departed to Africa; while a party, sit-
ting in a circle gave the chorus ibidd.] .

He emphasizes: 'It must be kept in
mind that [these practices] were all part
of a complicated system of religious
beliefs . '

According to the animistic view of the
Ashanti, in all animal and vegetable life
there was a spiritual element... animals
were sacrificed at funerals so that their
spirits might accompany the departed.
According to Ashanti belief even 'trees
and plants in general have their own
particular souls which survive after
'death' and it is this spiritual element
which sustains the soul of man on its
way .. .[Williams 1934 pp. 194-5] .

Originally much of the African heri-
tage in Jamaica was presumed to be that
of 'Koromantin'; in fact this was the
name of the first and largest British slave-
trade depot on the Gold Coast, of what
is now Ghana. From 1680 until 1807,
when slave trading not slavery was
outlawed in the British Empire, Koro-
mantin was the principal slave depot
from which Africans were shipped to
the Caribbean. The Koromantin slaves
'were probably derived from the Ashanti
and the warlike tribes of the Black and
White Volta' [Williams 1934 p.25].
Williams [p. 47] contended that 'a
study of the records of slave arrivals in
Jamaica leads to the conclusion that at
no time did the Ashanti compose more
than fifteen per cent of the whole slave
population in the island' and attributes
their influence over other African eth-
nic groups to their knowledge and use
of obeah. Whether one accepts this con-
tention or not, it is clear that the langu-
age and customs of the Ashanti-Fante
peoples have predominated over other
retentions, but not to the exclusion of
all others.
Fragments of both Yoruba and Con-
golese languages and customs survive -
although there is valid evidence to sug-
gest that these latter retentions have
been strengthened by Yoruba and Con-
golese indentured labourers who came
to Jamaica after emancipation, between
1841 and 1865 [Schuler 1980]. More
is known in Jamaica about Ashanti cus-
tomes because the Gold Coast (Ghana)
was part of the British Empire and Eng-
lish is used throughout, while the Con-
go (Zaire) and Angola were not British
and material on these countries would
more likely be found in French or
Portuguese publications. Little is known
in Jamaica today about the Central
African customs which gave rise to
death rituals and activities of Congolese
origin, like Kumina, Mbeele, Tambu and
possibly, if the suggested Kongolese
etymology of 'ndingi' is accurate, Dinki
Mini and Zella.
What is needed is not only the
documentation of these traditions as

they exist in Jamaica- this is now being
pursued by the Jamaica Memory Bank
among others, but also input from
African scholars or scholars with detail
ed knowledge of Central African, part
cularly Angolan and Congolese, cultures.


BAXTER, Ivy, The Arts of An Island, Metu-
chen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, Inc. 1970.
CASSIDY, Frederic and LePAGE, R.B.,
Dictionary of Jamaican English, Cam-
bridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2nd ed.,

DOYLE, Kirby, Personal Interview by Hazel
Ramsay, Kingston: Jamaica Memory
Bank, July, 1982.
-, Personal Interview by Hazel Ramsay,
Kingston: Jamaica Memory Bank, 28
August 1986.
EDWARDS, Daisy, "A Look At Dinki Mini
In Islington", Kingston: Jamaica School
of Dance, Certificate Paper, n.d.
McLEOD, Pamella, "The Origins and Develop-
ment of Dinkie Mini in St. Mary", King-
ston: Jamaica School of Dance, Certifi-
cate Paper, 1985.
NETTLEFORD, Rex, Dance Jamaica, Cul-
tural Definition and Artistic Discovery,
The National Dance Theatre Company,
New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1985.
REYNOLDS, C. Roy, "Tacky, and the Great
Slave Rebellion of 1760", Jamaica
Journal, 4: 2, June, 1972.
RYMAN, Cheryl, "Dinki-Mini and Gerre",
NDTC [National Dance Theatre Com-
pany] Newsletter, Kingston: July 1983.
-, "The Jamaican Heritage in Dance",
Jamaica Journal, No. 44, n.d.
SCHULER, Monica, "Alas, Alas, Kongo": A
Social History of Indentured African
Immigration into Jamaica, 1841-1865,
Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1980.
WILLIAMS, A. Monthy, "Traditional Folk
Dances of Jamaica", Kingston: Jamaica
Memory Bank, n.d.
WILLIAMS, Joseph J., Psychic Phenomena
of Jamaica, New York: The Dial Press,


The Jamaica Memory Bank, c/o Office of The
Prime Minister, and the Jamaica School of
Dance in the Cultural Training Centre of the
Institute of Jamaica both cooperated during
research for this article.

The Old Cotton

Trees are Dying

The old cotton trees are
dying in this land
where the young grow
the locks and beards of the old
and do not plant trees.
The oldtime people used to say
these canoe trees
these coffin trees
are the dwelling places
of our spirits,

We make these objects of
from the largest trees in
our land.

I have studied history
in the thick buttresses of
their roots,
in their ancient beards of cotton,
and in the generations
of orchids and cacti
growing on their branches.

Now the old cotto,;n ii s I t d nli
and I wonder if the spt iti~
are scattered. '"


By Earl McKenzie

Among hard and unfriendly bodies
/ am a stranger wondering
why / am here,
then I turn and see her face.

The crowd disappears
and I hear my soul saying:
she is the one,
look carefully at her.

The crowd returns,
hard cold bodies jostling,
and the rough waves
sweep her away.

The crowd disappears
and I hear my soul saying:
I have showed her to you
and the long held promise
hai b. :n kept.
it ,s the end of your waiting
rad tht beginning
. of t our understanding.

5 /

\ ..

-- /~>
.% -

Illustration by June Bellew
Cotton Tree at Half Way Tree

Hill People
To ascend or descend
is nearly the only choice
of motion here;
and erect bodies with loads
of hard traditions
on their heads
move up and down
in their slow and strenuous
on the land's exacting

Few remember now
that seen from slavery's
this stiff and stony soil
was once a dream
that soothed broken bodies.

And while they fashion
new wishes
from their toils in this
froM this first chance
so ardently taken,
these feet which
are descended
from feet which survived
chains and treadmills,
continue to write
their signature of tracks
across the stern land's
crumpled surfaces.


A Century of Murder

in Jamaica


By Michele Johnson

The Incidence of Murder

o. ,L\'' study of murder in Jamaica over a hundred-
year period provides a perspective from which
to note the development of trends. From
1880-1915 the number of murders was relatively low, aver-
aging below twenty per year. Between 1915-58 the numbers
rose but not greatly, ranging between twenty-five and thirty.
After 1958 there was a steady rise to a peak in 1980 when
over 900 were committed. The rate returned to previous
levels thereafter, some 400 per year. (see figure 1)

If the murder rate is viewed in terms of population, the
same general movement can be observed. It was 1:10000 and
below between 1880-1910. Between 1910-30 the rate level-
led off at about 1:10000 and fell to its lowest point of
0.4:10000 between 1931-55. After 1956 the rate rose notice-
ably to 1980 where a level of 11:10000 was reached. (see
figure 2)
Internationally, Jamaica's recent incidence of murder
rated quite high, being surpassed only by some Latin Ameri-
can countries and rivalling all countries. Looked at in terms
of size and population, Jamaica stood out. (figure 3)
When we look at types of murders committed, certain
trends are noticeable. From the beginning of the study,
'crimes of passion' take precedence. From 1880 to the early
part of the twentieth century, this was especially noted
among East Indian labourers. Later, 'violence between inti-
mates' affected all sectors of the population so that by the
1940s, murder of intimates especially of wives, was a com-
mon feature. Murder associated with robbery has always oc-
curred, but in the sources consulted, no reference to this type
of murder was found in the earlier period. From the 1900s
we find murder committed for the acquisition of goods of
others increasing in frequency up to the 1970s when it be-
came almost a matter of course. Infanticide also occurred
throughout the period under study but according to the rec-
ords, reached alarming proportions between 1900 and
the 1920s. Mob activities resulting in death seemed to have
gained impetus from the development and growth of organised
labour movements and the beginnings of class consciousness.
From the 1920s through to 1938 when civil disturbances be-

"Death" by David Boxer
came most rampant, the 'crowd' more and more became a
precipitating factor in death. Murder by mentally ill per-
sons has always been a feature of every society and was
found to occur throughout the entire period of study. The
phenomenal increase in the murder rate in the 1960s to 1980
has been directly attributed to two main factors the grow-
ing political polarization between two parties and the 'politic-
al tribalism' engendered, and the tensions and disequilibrium
arising from the rapid changes and developments which
took place during this period.
The study was conducted in twenty-year blocks for con-
venience only; it is not meant to suggest that the particular
aspects of murder examined in that period occurred only
then but that they were most prevalent in the reports of that
Information came from the annual police reports (part of
the Departmental Reports of Jamaica). Each year was
examined individually: a few years were missing from the
collection in the University Library at Mona and were not
covered. The thoroughness of the reports varied over time;
some inspectors of police gave a breakdown of the types of
murders, other simply stated aggregates. Where detailed re-
ports of particular murder cases were given, they clearly
reflected the reporter's bias in terms of what he found interest-
ing. Between 1880-95 the governor's report accompanied the
departmental reports and gave a valuable overview; how-
ever, this report stopped abruptly in 1895. The breakdown
of the types of murders in table form ended in 1925 with no
explanation. In fact between 1925-31 not only did the tables
disappear but so did the detailed accounts of particular mur-
der cases. Also, what may be referred to as 'police murders',
i.e. killings by police in the line of duty, are not included in
murder statistics at all. Additionally, the reports often switch
between the headings 'cases of murder' and 'persons murder-
ed' without any clear indication of the difference between
them. The reliance on newspaper articles has several draw-
backs, the most obvious being the sensationalism of the
newspapers which ensures that the more gruesome murders
occupy dominant positions while more 'ordinary' murders
fade into the background.

The relatively high number of murders recorded for 1880,
the beginning of the period under study, contrasts sharply
with the preceding period and even more so with the follow-
ing years. The generally accepted notion, supported by Hya-
cinth Ellis [1973] is that economic hardships tend to be res-
ponsible, to a large degree, for the growth of violence in a
The year 1880 was a particularly difficult one: 'A pro-
tracted drought following on the cyclone of August 1880,
impoverished the peasantry in many districts of the island
and left them, in some cases, scarcely enough for the necessi-
ties of life ... '[Governor's report 1887] .The loss of crops and
general dislocation affected the rural areas more than the
urban and this is reflected in the geographic distribution of
murder. Of the twenty-eight murders recorded for 1880, ten
occurred in rural areas. A similar correlation between eco-
nomic hardship and the murder rate occurred in 1885-6
when, according to Governor Norman, there was a falling off
in sugar and a decrease in rum production. Coffee was de-
clining also, because of '. . the drought and . the very
low prices to which this article fell during the year, leading
to the abandonment of the cultivation by the peasants who
contribute a very large proportion of this product'. A cyclone
bringing destructive storms and floods, damaging railways
and roads, banana cultivations and peasants' fields was also
noted for that year. It is noteworthy that of the seven mur-
ders recorded, one was committed in the parish of St.
Thomas, one in St. Ann, two in St. Elizabeth, one in Claren-
don and two in St. Catherine all rural areas affected by the
The notion that those goaded by insufficient material
comforts will turn to deviant action and in particular, 'crimes
of violence', seems plausible; however, it should not be ac-
cepted without reserve. The economic hardships which were
said to influence the climbing murder rates of some years
continued into other years, when murder was not a matter
for undue concern. The economic disequilibrium of 1880-81
continued into 1882-83, but during that period the murder
rate fell sharply to four for the year. A fire in Kingston in
December 1882 in which over 570 buildings were destroyed,
added to the economic displacement. But the hardships did
not result in an increase in the murder rate. The governor
announced 'Crime has been happily rare, and the public
peace has not been broken . .' Although a situation of eco-
nomic deprivation can certainly set the background for mur-
der, the relationship is not causal. Economic hardship then,
cannot be seen as an autonomous factor in determining mur-
der rates in Jamaica, though its contribution must be recog-
The decrease in the murder rate after 1880 was heavily in-
fluenced by other factors, one of which was the 'safety valve'
provided by emigration. 'Although the movement became sig-
nificant numerically only in the 1880s it should be noted
that Jamaicans had responded to overseas recruitment long
before this date'. [Eisner 1961 p.147]. Emigration was seen
as an important population control measure, an economic
outlet for those whom the economy could only marginally
absorb, and a control on criminal activities:
The decrease of serious crime in the Colony, as evidenced by
the police returns, cannot fail to afford satisfaction even if it
be true, as is said, that this decrease is partly due to the outlet
provided by the Panama Canal Works for the energies of a large

number of dangerous and troublesome classes. [Governor's
report 1883-4 p. xvii].
Throughout this period, one very interesting feature stands
out that of murder among the East Indian immigrants. The
'coolie murders' as they were officially called, featured as
some of the most gruesome in the island, their frequency
being noticeable in the 1890s.
The 'mass murder' of 'a Coolieman, his wife and mother
and another Coolieman who lived with them' (police report)
was a feature of 1891-2. Their throats were cut and their
heads half-removed by another East Indian and a 'native'.
The alarm accompanying this type of murder rose with the
number of such murders throughout the era. The 1892-3
report spoke of the murder of a 'church sister by a Coolie
bishop' who had allegedly drugged her for immoral pur-
poses. In 1894-5 'Amila was murdered by her husband Badul-
lan because of revenge' and 'Sukhdai was murdered by
Ruchai on account of jealousy':

Sukhdai was living with Ruchai but he suspected her of inti-
macy with another Coolie, and when he saw her one morning
divide the food she had prepared into three parts instead of
two, he thought his suspicions were proved and at once attack-
ed her with a cutlass causing instant death, and then attempted
to commit suicide ....

The police report of 1895-6 stated that 'Of the murder
cases [thirteen that year], five were committed by Coolies,
all of the most barbarous nature and more or less through
jealousy ...
It may be true that cultural mores made it possible for
the East Indians to express their intense jealousies in this
way but this was not the underlying problem. It arose partly
from an imbalance in the sex ratio among the indentured
immigrants, there being substantially more men than women.
This imbalance caused several husbands to suspect their wives
of infidelity and sometimes they killed them on this basis,
real or imagined. The problem loomed so large in late nine-
teenth century Jamaica that Philip C. Cork, protector of
immigrants, wrote in his report for 1894-5:
So many cases of homicide have never occurred before in my
experience during any one year. A circular was issued to em-
ployers of Coolies on the 12 July last, asking them to bring
to my notice by telegraph all cases of jealousy amongst Coolies
in order to enable me to take the necessary steps in time to
prevent murders ....

The trends present in this earliest era under study certain-
ly did not end in 1900, but were prevalent within it. The
murder rates remained relatively constant throughout the
era, averaging ten per year. Murder was however, beginning
to be a feature of Jamaican society.


One possible reason for a seeming decline in the trends
discussed above and the dominance of new trends is contain-
ed in the type of reporting the police reports only contain
details of murders which interest or shock the particular in-
spector of police. New trends would be more readily report-
ed than those observed for some time. The apparent decline
in features such as the East Indian murders may in fact be
due to a fall-off in the reporting of these incidents rather
than a decline in the absolute numbers. The numbers could
also have been falling due to a greater 'sex balance' among
the Indians, as some of the males became integrated and assi-
milated into Creole society.

In the murders from 1900 a new feature comes to the
fore: murder for robbery and plunder. Even the murder
of East Indians begin to take on this slant:

In Clarendon, a coolie man murdered an old coolie woman,
throwing her body down an old unused well and earthing it
up, after stealing a large quantity of jewellery that she pos-
sessed [Police report 1900 -1 p.3].

Murder for robbery became closely linked with another
important crime statistic: praedial larceny. This type of mur-
der was not observed in police reports before this era. In
1905 a man murdered another man whom he 'caught in his
provision ground stealing'. In 1907, one man was chopped
to death when the proprietor of a property caught him steal-
ing his bananas. The year 1908 saw the murder of a young
man going to market by someone who stole his father's pro-
visons from him. In 1909, a man was murdered in his pro-
vision ground by thieves, while in 1913 yet another potential
thief was shot by a property owner, an event which, accord-
ing to the authorities, had a remarkable effect on 'the
number of praedial larceny cases in the parish ... .
The growing frequency of murders connected to robbery,
plunder and in particular praedial larceny must be noted.
Praedial larceny, according to police reports, often occurred
in times of natural disaster when people's means of liveli-
hood are destroyed, as occurred frequently in Jamaica. Speci-
fic notice must be made of the 1907 earthquake and its
effects. The police reports also point to praedial larceny
being especially prevalent where a father figure is absent
from the home. Emigration would have influenced this factor
greatly as it was mostly men who were emigrating, leaving
behind poorly sustained families. Another factor influen-
cing praedial larceny was the price of goods in the market
where most of the stolen produce ended up; good market
prices were incentives to praedial larcenists. The Praedial
Larceny Law of 1909 certainly did not improve the situ-
ation since it placed the burden of proof on the victim of
the larceny. The growth of stealing and the poor legal pro-
tection afforded the farmer contributed to a frantic effort
at 'property protection' efforts which sometimes result-
ed in murder.
Of great importance in this period was the growth of
'child murders'. In 1902 a woman killed her child by throw-
ing it into a river and another child was left by its mother to
die from exposure. In 1905 there were two child murders,
one woman killed her sister's child (she was declared in-
sane); while a mother wilfully murdered hers. In 1906 a
woman killed her twelve-month-old child and a woman and
her daughter killed the daughter's child by feeding it arsenic.
In the same year, a mother was declared insane after 'she
hacked the child's head, cutting through the skull and the
brain, splitting its nose, eye and ear. The wounds were inflict-
ed with a sharp cutlass'. The child murders in 1908 were just
as gruesome. A woman had a baby and put it in a bag and
then packed stones on it. Yet another killed her baby and 'A
postmortem examination was made and Medical testimony
disclosed that the child was born alive and that the skull and
ribs had been fractured and the liver and spleen ruptured'.
Two other child murders occurred in that same year, with
two more in the following year. This trend continued until
1917 when 'On the evening of the 30th May . a man
named Edgar Scott threw his illegitimate daughter aged two
years into a deep well'.


The parents who murdered their children were often
said to be insane, although this was not necessarily true. It is
apparent that it was believed that anyone who could be 'so
cruel' had to be insane. What was more likely was that the
murderers, most often mothers, were suffering from anguish
-- 'A sense of narrowness, agony, torture, torment, perplexity,
hopelessness, helplessness and despair' [Porterfield 1965
p.21]. The situation in which some of these mothers found
themselves (mothers being the main perpetrators of this
crime) is closely mirrored by the situation, the anguish,
which 'slave mothers' experienced. During slavery . 'there
was evidence of deliberate and widespread abortion prac-
tices, and it is believed that some slave women practised in-
fanticide'. [Brathwaite 1971 p.206]. This was directly bound
to the feeling that the children were better off dead than
alive in a system of slavery.
Often, 'murdering mothers' cannot accommodate the
child socially, emotionally and economically. The murder of
children in this period must be viewed in the light of the
pathetic cry of an accused 'murdering mother', who said be-
fore the courts in 1883: 'I have nothing to give it, what can I
do?' Child murder is very often a reaction to disorder in the
mother's mind most of it social. Those responsible for
child murders were, overwhelmingly, mothers who violated
the statutes against sexual continence or domestic order -
unmarried women 'guilty of fornication' or married women
known to use violence against their children.
By the end of the era the number of child murders had
fallen due to three important factors. There was a subtle
change in attitude regarding sex that 'illegitimate child-
ren' and the fornication which precipitated them was not
so much of a 'social disgrace'. The importance and role of
mothers and their need for outlets as persons began to be
recognized and the anguish experienced by some of the
potential 'murdering mothers' was relieved. This was sup-
ported by better living standards overall which might have
relieved some of the pressures on mothers.

Murder, then, took on even more complex patterns and
the observation of new trends in this social phenomenon per-
plexed some, shocked many and caught the attention of all,
as Jamaica entered the twentieth century.

1920 -40
After the 1865 uprising, the discontent of the Jamaican
labouring class simmered but certainly did not die. The year
1920 saw the re-emergence of working-class protest, which
was to result in destruction, demonstration and death:
A serious riot occurred in Kingston on the morning of the 9th
June, 1924 .... The first outbreak took place at Church Street
where the labourers who had agreed to work for the wages of-
fered were savagely attacked by the large crowd of labourers
who had assembled and demanded a higher rate of pay ....
An armed party of Police under Inspector Wright from Sutton
Street arrived at the scene. The party was savagely attacked
and after several of the men had been wounded, the order to
fire was given, resulting in two killed and 32 wounded . .
[Police report 1924 p. 492).
A new type of violence was in the making violence per-
petrated by the 'mob'. Spontaneous gatherings began to take
on violent characteristics and featured attacks on the 'enemy'.
Antagonism between 'the people' and 'the Establishment'
became increasingly frequent culminating in the civil disturb-
ance of 1938 in which eight people were killed.
The murders discussed earlier among East Indians represent-









1880 1890 1900 1910


1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980

_annnnnnnnnnnnrnn n^I
l 3 D FB irilril n P R F i
4 0

ed the murder of wives by husbands primarily. The 1920-40
era saw the development of a trend where 'murder between
intimates' became a nationwide phenomenon, not at all con-
fined to the East Indians. In 1920, in Trelawny, a man at-
tacked and killed his wife as did another in Clarendon and
yet another in St. Catherine. A woman was killed by her
husband the next year, in Kingston, while in Portland, a man
'hacked his wife to death with a cutlass'.
The method of police reporting changes between 1922
and 1931 and in that period no details are given of the types
of murder. However, as soon as the recording of details is re-
sumed, it is observed that the trend continues:

On the 15th April, 1933, William Gordon, who was living with
a woman named Maideline Johnson, shot her with a revolver
and immediately shot himself, the reason was that the
woman expressed the desire to leave Gordon.

The most frequent reason tabulated by the police reports for
murder among intimates was 'sexual jealousy'. This was fol-
lowed closely by 'expectations about domestic work' where
husbands felt wives were not fulfilling their domestic roles
properly and reacted violently. 'Disagreements over money'
and 'general status problems' followed closely. 'Sexual re-
fusal' was also observed to be a reason for murder. Some-
times, drinking on the part of the assailant was an additional
catalyst to an already explosive situation.
Features common to family homicides elsewhere were
also found in the Jamaican situation. Such homicides are
much more likely to be severe, that is, involve numerous
stab wounds and severe beatings and 'these brutal murders
were much more likely to be of wives'. [Dobash 1983] .

This phenomenon was certainly not peculiar to Jamaica.
In England and Wales between 1885 and 1905:
out of the 487 murders committed by men, more than a quart-
er of the victims, 124, were women murdered by their hus-
bands; another substantial proportion, 115, were mistresses
or sweethearts of their assailants [Dobash 1983 p. 151.

Murders committed by persons who are mentally un-
balanced or by persons who develop homicidal streaks have
always had a place in history. 'Insane killings' will be dis-
cussed in this part because of the apparent prevalence of such
murders in this era. The basic source for this period was the
newspaper (the police reports having stopped) and it is
possible that the sensationalism of the newspaper concen-
trated on these types of murder, rather than the more 'usual'
ones, hence their apparent increase.
From the very beginning of the study, 1880, 'insane kil-
lings' have been a part of the statistics through to'the 1900s:

A Lunatic, in the Lunatic Asylum, hit another Lunatic with
the cover of a hydrant, which resulted in the death of the in-
jured man, shortly after. At the trial, as was to be expected,
the accused was pronounced insane and he is still in the Asy-
lum. [Police report 1910-11].

The unpredictable behaviour characterized by persons of un-
sound mind continued:
S. On Tuesday, May 30 1939 they were walking together
along the main road at Amity and Hartford when the prison-
er took a machete from a man named Simeon Blackwood and
inflicted thirteen wounds on the woman's body . .[Daily
Gleaner, 16 January 19401.

The reports also begin to feature police killings of people
who allegedly go 'berserk' and have to be stopped.

'Violent Man Shot to death by Policeman'. [Daily Gleaner,
9 Janaury 19451.

The report under this headline states that the 'violent man' in
question had smoked ganja (Cannabis sativa) and gone ber-
serk. He allegedly chopped the policeman on his foot and
was shot dead. In the Daily Gleaner of the same day, one Al-
bert Chin killed a man in North Parade, downtown Kingston,
because the man 'was facety to him'. During the court
trial, Chin's evidence was questioned as to its validity, authen-
ticity and finally its sanity. In November 1956:
Shots rang out early yesterday morning in the quiet area of
Norman Road . .Joscelyn Moo Young, age 38 ... had taken a
.38 calibre revolver and shot his wife and two of his children.
Afterwards he fired two bullets into his own head and killed
himself. In an adjoining room lay the Moo Young's five other
children, asleep .. .[Daily Gleaner 23 November 19561.

The report went on to say that the police could find no
motive for the murders. Yet another 'insane murder' was re-
corded in 1958:
Easter Monday killer slaughters 8
14 wounded on Labyrinth's night of horror.
A killer ran amok at the peaceful village of Labyrinth, Western
St. Mary, on the holiday night of Easter Monday. In 90 dread-
ful minutes there were left in murderous wake eight dead and
fourteen wounded . ..[Daily Gleaner, 1 April 19581.

By the late 1950s the Jamaican economy was beginning to
show signs of prosperity and the accompanying social disloca-
tions were probably inevitable. Homicide and aggravated as-
sault are correlated positively with the business cycle. From
the perspective of the 'surplus value of labour' theory, Jam-
aica in the 1950s was subject to more and more labour ex-
ploitation, since increased national prosperity is due to in-
creased production and hence, increased 'exploitation'. Con-
trary to expectations, homicides increase during an era of
prosperity because prosperity benefits those who own the
factors of production. The familiar cliche of 'the rich getting
richer' in Jamaican society sparked off tension tension
which sometimes resulted in violent behaviour.
Certain sectors of society were again kept under control
by a factor discussed earlier, emigration. Over 100,000
people left the island in the period (spilling over into the
1960s). This relieved some of the stress on the island's re-
sources and the money sent back from Britain helped in
many instances to keep some families alive: 'With the advent
of the New Year, the unemployment situation, particularly
in commercial circles, has become very acute . '[Daily
Gleaner, 5 January 1940].
In fact, the stage was being set for the noticeable increase
in the murder rate around 1958. The background of poverty,
exploitation, and a world war the second of its kind -
served to make death seem much more taken for granted and
violence more 'respectable':
6000 Soviets killed, Thousands Scattered
39000 Dead in Turkish 'Quake.
[Daily Gleaner, January 1940].

Jamaica as a small country within the theatre of world
socio-economic conditions found herself in a state of uncer-
tainty. In terms of world events, the background was one of
war and economic depression. Regionally, by the late 1950s

the British West Indies knew that self-government was going
to be granted, just how, the territories were not sure; locally
the trappings of colonialism began to conflict with the im--
position of capitalism. The tensions, conflicts and frus-
trations generated by these circumstances pushed Jamaica
over the brink and from 1958 through to the next era, the
murder rate climbed noticeably.

This final period under discussion was certainly very dif-
ferent in terms of the frequency and types of murder. Mur-
der for 'personal reasons' (for example, jealousy) continued
unabated as did those for robbery and plunder. But in other
respects 1960-80 represents a very special era.
Society acquires different attitudes to various aspects of
life, ranging from tolerance to absolute abhorrence. With res-
pect to violence, it has been found that there is a positive
relationship between social tolerance of violence and the inci-
dence of violent crime:

S. .the homicidal current, generally speaking, is more violent
the less it is restrained by public conscience [Durkheim 1966 p.
Similarly, where negative responses to violence are created,
efforts at control will be intensified.

For murders to disappear the horror of bloodshed must be-
come greater in those social strata from which murderers are
recruited, but first it must become greater throughout the
society. [Durkheim 19501.
Between 1960 and 1980 Jamaica showed increasing in-
difference to the number of murders occurring; some theories
hold that indifference itself is a factor which contributes
to the growth of murder. The apparent growth of indifference
in Jamaica is discussed at length in Hyacinth Ellis's work
[1973] .
The particular socio-political-economic conditions in the
island during this era had a direct bearing on the increase in
the murder rate. The independence granted by Britain in
1962 brought with it questions of leadership and politics,
financial responsibility, cultural identity, and nationhood.
The euphoria present in the island during 1962 was counter-
balanced by the feeling on the part of the more 'sensitive'
citizens that: 'In a few days time Jamaica becomes a nation
independent unto itself: responsible for its own tragedies and
success; answerable only to God and to history . .' [Daily
Gleaner, 2 August 1962]. Independence brought with it a
kind of imbalance that is not easily explained, a dislocation
which made some people do strange things.
Killed in fight over decorations
Police reports state that Jamaica Public Service Company men
installing extra lights along the Spanish Town Road for the
Independence Celebrations were approached by men who told
them that no lights were wanted there. The men allegedly at-
tacked one of the company men with bottles and a knife, and
during the ensuing scuffle a shot was fired and Sanderson one
of the 'attackers' fell, mortally wounded .... .[Daily Gleaner,
4 August 19621.

Independence was a time when most Jamaicans 'forgot'
themselves; indeed, went overboard. They drank, danced
and carried on, to use a colloquialism, with 'madness'.
The type of feeling and behaviour engendered as distinct
from the real circumstances present in the island, is best
exemplified by the following report:

23 faint at siding
Twenty three persons fainted at Denbigh siding, May Pen this
morning while awaiting the arrival of Her Royal Highness,
Princess Margaret . .Daily Gleaner, 9 August 19621.

The 1960s to 1970 saw the phenomenal increase in the
industrial development of Jamaica. The increasing complex-
ity of the society brought displacement for some and change
for all. The seventies ushered in new political ideologies and
social change. The society became plagued by violence:
'Shooting, rape, up; robbery down' [Daily Gleaner, 11 Novem-
ber 19761.
The years 1960-80 were important because they brought
to the forefront of Jamaican life the phenomenon of violence
between supporters of the two major political parties the
Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party. The
sheer poverty which prevailed in some parts of the island led
the poverty-stricken to turn to violence, partly as a way of
'relief' from their grim realities but more importantly to pro-
mote their leaders in the hope that they would personally
benefit. However, unlike organized criminal violence, politi-
cal violence in Jamaica appears to be centred around certain
specific events and/or time periods. [Lewin 1978 p.117].
Up to 1980 the major focal points of political violence
have been the general elections. The clashes of the 1960s in-
tensified with time and by the general election of 1972 had
erupted into serious political confrontation. The general
election of 1976 saw another wave of violence and death:
Election violence flares
Two men shot dead; party office gutted. [Daily Gleaner,
1 December 1976).

The clashes between the rival political parties became more
and more serious. In one incident in 1976, a man went to a
shop with his friends:
The shop was near to where a JLP meeting was in progress ....
While in the shop, it was alleged that three men came up and
asked, 'Who you belong to, High up or Manners?' It was not
clear what Clovis the murdered man told them but he later shout-
ed 'Lawd him stab me'. He died on the way to the hospital ....
[Daily Gleaner, 10 December 19761.

By 1980 the violence reigning in Jamaica was, by far, gang
violence. Gangs of politically oriented persons went on ram-
pages leaving in their wake death and destruction:
Miss Carrington was shot in a bar at Heywood and West Streets
when 20 gunmen went on the rampage firing shots wildly in
the area about 2.30 yesterday afternoon . [Daily Gleaner
15 October 19801.
The gang violence was initially a statement of resentment
against the social system. Initially, this was expressed in com-
paratively 'safe ways' (demonstrations etc.) which developed
into unorganized spontaneous group destructiveness. Very
soon the groups were attacking readily available targets and
public anger grew. By the mid-1970s the more persistently
belligerent young men were being condemned by working
class groups:
By what has been called a 'deviation amplifying system' the
gang becomes cut off from its own social group, becomes more
highly structured and anti-social as its members are forced to
depend only on each other for support and prestige . .
[Whetton 1968 p.501.

Hyacinth Ellis in her survey asked Jamaicans to tell what
they thought were the reasons for the prevailing violence. Of
the 100 respondents, eight said they thought the deplorable

situation was due to 'political reasons': bad government and
politicians; fifteen said the reasons were personal: low moral
character, greed, jealousy, envy, laziness; thirty-five proposed
social reasons: low regard for authority, lawlessness, lack of
parental control, lack of religion and forty-two cited eco-
nomic reasons: unemployment, unemployability through a
lack of skills, general poverty and a lack of money for the
barest necessities.
Aside from political violence, the incidence of murder for
plunder continued. The country was subject to declining
bauxite, fruit and tourist industries, falling productivity,
growing unemployment, and crime seemed the only way for
some. The criminal element was not, however, always sup-
ported by other such elements:
Miss Isolyn Watt, cashier at the Texaco Service Station at 135
Spanish Town Road, Kingston 10, was shot dead by gunmen
and robbed of about $5,000 in cash and cheques at her work
place on Saturday afternoon. Later that night the bullet rid-
dled body of a man was found on the compound of the same
service station, bearing a tag which read: 'Executed by we for
the gas station killing of Lyn Watt . [Daily Gleaner 14
October 1980].

One noticeable aspect of murder between 1960-80 was
the change in the use of weapons. A survey of 714 cases of
homicide between 1965-70 reveals that 'firearms were used
in 238 cases; the knife or dagger in 150 and the machete in
96 cases. Ten other weapons and assault without weapons ac-
counted for the remaining cases' [Ellis 1973]. According to
A.N. Lewin [1978 pp. 149-155], before the 1960s the
machete was the most popular instrument of murder. During
the sixties the 'ratchet knife' became extremely popular,
while the early 1970s saw the use of handguns becoming
prevalent. By the mid-seventies sophisticated automatic rifles
were preponderant.
The attempt to cram 200 years of development into these
twenty left its mark on Jamaican society, taking into account

The very process of developing creates heterogenity and sub-
cultural pockets, either of newly developed value systems or of
isolated retainers of older value systems . [Wolfgang and
Ferracutie 1967 p.270].

In the process, some cannot find their place in society and
turn to violence for compensation. Only by executing
destruction do they find or create their niche:

Violence is abhorrent I do not want to be chopped yet its
functional aspects need to be recognized. The American socio-
logist, Coser, has noted that violence is often the only available
means of achieving status and self-respect . for the gang
member in an underprivileged area .... [Whetton 1968 p.48].

The development of political violence in Jamaica and the
growth of 'gangs' as the main vehicles for violence were as-
pects peculiar to this era. The change over time to sophisti-
cated high-powered weapons is also significant. The growing
'accommodation' of the Jamaican society reduced the levels
of outrage at murder and the rate climbed to a peak in 1980.


Murder is often seen as the most abhorrent of all crimes- the
removal of life. If this assumption is accepted, then the growth
of Jamaica's murder rate after 1970 should be noted well.
The increasing alienation of a society from its factors of pro-
duction, between its individual elements, and from itself

pushed Jamaican society in no uncertain way to the brink of
self-destruction. The economic desperation perceived in most
Third World countries has not left Jamaica behind the
island has wilted under the oppressive hold of monocultural
agriculture in vital sectors, under the high cost of imports
and the low prices for exports and a staggering debt burden.
The political 'tribalism' noted before and its influence on
Jamaican life in general and murder in particular cannot be
over-emphasized. The rapid social changes which Jamaicans
have been forced to undergo in 100 years have left pockets
of maladjusted persons.

The growth of accommodation to violence among Jam-
aicans makes the disease much more difficult to fight, be-
cause a societal attitude which finds murder anathema is
necessary for its eradication.


ALLEN, Dudley, "Crime and Treatment in Jamaica", in Brana-Shute,
Rosemary and Garry (ed.), Crime and Punishment in the Carib-
bean: University of Florida, Center of Latin American Studies,

BRATHWAITE, Edward, The Development of Creole Society in Jam-
aica 1770-1820; OUP, 1971.
DOBASH, R. Emerson and DOBASH, Russell, Violence against wives:
A case against the patriarchy, New York: Macmillan, 1983.
DURKHEIM, Emile, The Rules of Sociological Method, Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1950.
-, Suicide, New York: The Free Press, 1966.
EISNER, Gisela, Jamaica 1830-1930: A Study in Economic Growth,
Manchester University Press, 1961.
ELLIS, Hyacinth M., "Accommodation of Violence: A study of At-
titudinal Systems and their relevance to crimes of violence in
Jamaica", M.Sc. thesis, University of the West Indies, Mona,
Jamaica, Annual Report on Jamaica, 1946, 1949.
Demographic Statistics, June 1971.
Departmental Reports, 1880-1938
Handbook of Jamaica, 1947-60.
Population and Vital Statistics Jamaica 1832-1964 (compiled
by Kalman Tekse) Department of Statistics, June 1967.
National Accounts: Income and Expenditure 1958-1959,
Department of Statistics, 1961.
Quarterly Digest of Statistics, 1948, 1971, 1974, 1977, 1981
Department of Statistics.
Statistical Yearbook of Jamaica (volume of crime), 1976, 1982
LEWIN, A.N., "Social Control in Jamaica: Causes. Methods and Con-
sequences" Ph.D. dissertation, City University of New York,
PORTERFIELD, Austin L., Cultures of Violence: A Study of the
Tragic Man in Society, Fort Worth, Texas: Manney Co., 1965.
POST, Ken, Arise Ye Starvelinas: The Jamaican Labour Rebellion of
1938 and its aftermath, The Hague, Martimus Nifhoff, 1978.
WHETTON, Jim, "A Perspective on Violence", Jamaica Journal,
2: 1, 1968.
WOLFGANG, Marvin E. and FERRACUTIE, Franco, The sub-
culture of violence, New York: Tavistock Publications 1967.

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From Field to Platform:

Jamaican Folk Music in Concert...... 2

by Pamela O'Gorman

Thus different cultures (and cultural
groups) honor different types of body-
images and ways of moving. These are
often encoded in the rhythmic style of the
music. [Manoff 1983] .

Style n. manner of writing, speaking or
doing, esp. as opposed to the matter to be
expressed or things done. Collective
characteristics . of artistic expression or
way of presenting things or decorative
methods proper to manner of exhibiting
these characteristics. The Concise Oxford
Dictionary 4th ed. 1964.

T he effective translation of folk mu-

sic from field to platform is as
much a matter of forging a the-
atrical style as it is of arranging songs
and training vocalists and instrumental-
ists. The stage demands that everything
must be larger than life, in order to cross
that no-man's-land between the per-
former and his audience. It is one of the
first lessons the performing artist must
learn and understand.
In music, the crossing is effected
mainly by means of a rhythmic bond
that is created between the performer
and the listener. Continuously arousing
the listener's expectation of what is
coming next, it sometimes fulfils, some-
times thwarts. It keeps him suspended
by the ebb and the flow of tension and
relaxation. It happens at every level of
musical expression and the more subtle
its use, the more compelling it becomes.
But folk music, whether in the field
or on the platform, makes this rhythmic
bond manifest in ways that classical mu-
sic (of whatever culture) seldom does.
Folk music is never just music qua
music, as one finds in the classical mani-
festations of the art. It is sound, motion,
gesture and drama synchronized into a
unity that is as ancient as art itself. If
we look to our folk roots (and all
music springs from the folk) we find
that it is natural for dancers to sing,
for musicians to move, for singers to
act. Our response to this unity is some-

The Cari-Folk Singers project an image of youth, vitality and exuberance.

thing we never totally lose. It has re-
mained alive in popular music and is
very much alive in pop and rock, where
voice, gesture and body movement are
an essential part of musical expression
and .audience participation. Therefore
folk music on stage carries an enormous
advantage, for it begins with an imme-
diate appeal to our ancient human im-
pulse to sing, dance or move in the pre-
sence of music.
At the same time, the advantage
carries within it concomitant challen-
ges to the performer to excel, not just at
one art, but at three. This is why the
successful staging of folk music is far
more difficult and far more demanding
of the performer than the performance
of straight choral music, which makes
no physical demands on the body be-

yond the ability to produce the voice and
stand (or sit) in one place with appro-
priate breaks for the duration of a con-
cert. It is also why the most effective
stage performance of folk music is
usually dependent upon performers who
have the physical mobility and stamina
to meet all the challenges of an art form
which, in the Caribbean, is highly de-
manding of the voice and the whole
Above all at this stage of our cul-
tural development, there is the artistic
challenge of forging style. How well
this is done depends on individual
perceptions of and insights into the
Jamaican character and their later re-
creation in song, gesture and movement.
Folk music performance is therefore an
art form that can be as demanding and

as searching as opera. The patronizing
attitude of some critics and a tendency
to dismiss it as a form of light enter-
tainment somewhat lower down the
ladder than classical music is a sad
commentary on the extent to which our
values have become debased by wholesale
acceptance of other, dominant artistic

The Cari-Folk Singers
The 1986 concert season of the Cari-
Folk Singers was entitled Rootsand Her-
itage and no less than forty-five songs
were divided into seven groups, each
depicting an aspect of Jamaican life:
Ben' Down Plaza; Independence; Duppy
Story; Church; Hard Time Deh Bout;
Mout-A Massi and Carry Go Bring Come.
Most of them were preceded by a short
spoken dialogue as a prelude to what
was to follow. The work of collecting,
arranging and rehearsing the programme
must have been enormous.
It is part of the present style of the
Cari-Folk Singers to attempt to re-
create a theatrical scene of which the
songs are a part, rather than to explore
the music and words in depth. The use
of props (which the singers themselves
help to assemble), appropriate costumes,
extensive lighting and the creation of
familiar social situations point to an em-
phasis on creating a 'slice' of Jamaican
life, at which we are onlookers. There
are no human dramas in which we be-
come personally involved. We receive an
overall impression of a young, exuber-
ant, extrovert country with plenty of
bustle and vitality.
This description would aptly fit the
Singers themselves. Almost all their songs
are hard-driving, fast and rhythmic,
leaving little time for contrasts in dy-
namics or changes of tone colour. In
this respect they are closer to the NDTC
Singers than to the Jamaican Folk Sing-
ers, but that is as far as the similarity
goes. Where the NDTC Singers place
most of the interest on the music, the
Cari-Folk Singers use their songs and
their movement to reinforce the setting.
They use their voices onomatopoeically
to create atmosphere (dogs and duppies
are favourite subjects); and they are not
averse to changing the words of songs
to fit the themes. Thus, the chorus of
"Solas Market" will become 'Mek we
go dung a ben' down plaza' and the
absence of climax or dramatic tension in
most of the songs speaks of an attempt
to use them as a means to an end rather
than an end in themselves.



--. .

The Cari-Folk Singers recreate with the use of props, lighting and
costumes, familiar social situations from Jamaican life.

ti- 41"

t 1111 j .PL

Most of the arrangements are straight-
forward, hard-driving part-songs that are
carried along by the rhythmic momen-
tum provided by drum and guitar ac-
companiments. This makes for a sus-
tained level of tension but it tends to be
tiring for the average listener, who needs
some contrast and relaxation.
Nevertheless the Cari-Folk Singers
are an important group. Despite their
youthful emphasis on speed and volume,
they have achieved a high level of dis-
cipline and have covered an enormous
repertoire of songs. I wonder whether
the halls in which they perform, such as
the Little Theatre, do not impose on
them a tendency to over-project their
voices and avoid slower tempos, for
fear of losing their audience's atten-
Some of the arrangements, presum-
ably by the musical director Kathy
Dyke, point to a willingness to take
risks and to break away from the con-
ventional. For instance "I Come To See
Janie" contains a quotation from
Chopin's "Funeral March" and a final
disintegration in a whirlwind of voices
that is clever and humorous and highly
imaginative. It is a break away from
anything that has been done before in
that it introduces a personal element
that makes one aware of the arranger
as commentator. (It is also one of the
few examples of a purely musical joke
that one has heard in Jamaica outside a
Monty Alexander performance).
Finally, with regard to document-
ation the Cari-Folk Singers surpass
everybody else. Their printed program-
mes are models of comprehensive in-
formation about the group, and the
songs. They contain numerous photo-
graphs. Last year's performance also in-
cluded a salute to 'Miss Lou' written by
Mervyn Morris (how gratifying it is to
see our young folk artistes giving credit
and paying homage in this way). The
group has even made a video. Their
future should be watched with great

The University Singers

The University Singers have a proud
thirty-year record of sustained excel-
lence not only in the performance of
folk music but also of classical. In the
'sixties they were responsible for some
of the most imaginative arrangements
and best performances of Caribbean folk
music that have been produced by any

group anywhere in the region. In those
days, folk music was always sung in
choir formation and the critical cri-
teria applied were the same as those
for classical music: clarity of diction,
good tone, balance and precision
of attack. The remarkable thing about
them in the past was that they sur-
vived the inevitable annual turnover
of student personnel and that they
were always conducted by a student
conductor. In latter years, since Noel
Dexter has been director of music
at UWI, they have enjoyed the advantage
of being conducted by a full-time pro-
fessional musician who has established a
nucleus of permanent graduate members
and has admitted undergraduate voices
only 'by invitation'. This has paid
enormous musical dividends.
Dexter is a born choral conductor who
lives in a world of pure vocal sound. To
him a choir member is not necessarily
someone who can sing well, but a voice
of singular quality, colour and range that
will help him achieve a particular choral
sound that exists inside his head. He is a
musician who works with one artistic
medium the voice. A recurrent
motif that has informed his conversation
during his professional years is the state-
ment, 'I am looking for . a voice'. I
mention this, because it carries the
key to an understanding of Dexter's
approach to singing.

Dexter does not superimpose on the
medium; he works with it and his ap-
proach to vocal technique tends to be
dictated by the sound that is natural to
an individual person rather than by
physiological rules of voice production.
To my mind, the sound he achieves is
neither European nor African but clear-
ly Caribbean (perhaps more exactly
Jamaican). He never forces his voices
beyond their natural ability and he
allows them to develop their own in-
dividual colour. As a result he can pro-
duce results with a minimum of trainer-
interference and he seems always to be
able to find the right voices with the
right timbre to highlight individual
It is this ability to work with the
sound that gives his choirs a particular
quality of resonance and vibrancy. I
once witnessed it with my eyes, and I
have never forgotten it. It occurred
during an outside broadcast which I
was monitoring for JBC (in those far-
off halcyon days when JBC used to do
these things) and it involved two excel-
lent choirs: Dexter's Youth Fellowship

Singers and one other. The other choir
opened the programme. Its discipline,
control and exactness were reflected
clearly in the precise movements of the
indicators on the VU meters of the
recording equipment. Then came Dex-
ter's choir. From the first note the
needles sprang to life. They pulsated,
they became vibrant, they breathed.
The sound operator and I looked at
each other in astonishment. Before our
eyes was the evidence of what our ears
were hearing.
The open, natural, yet clear tone that
he obtains from his singers allows him
to command an enormous range of col-
our and dynamics as well as a very wide
pitch range. But beyond that, there is
also a precision that extends to every
syllable of every word that is sung, an
unerring sense of balance between the
voices and the unteachable ability to
see into a song and extract from it its
very heart and essence.
When Dexter's musical skills were re-
cently matched with Rex Nettleford's
choreographic and dramatic talents, the
ancient unity was restored in equal bal-
ance in all parts and a further step was
taken in the development of folk music
performance in Jamaica.
There is a world of difference be-
tween movement and gesture that are
superimposed on music for their own
sake and those that are an integral part
of music. Rex Nettleford has spent his
life watching, analysing and synthe-
sizing the body-movements that express
the Jamaican character; but the quality
that places him so far ahead of so many
others in the field of choreography is
his innate understanding of music and
his ability to retranslate musical gesture
into bodily gesture. As Manoff [1983 p.
459] says, different types of body-
images and ways of moving are encoded
in the rhythmic style of the music.
Strangely enough there are comparative-
ly few choreographers who seem to have
the ability to penetrate the music deeply
enough to re-encode its rhythmic style
into the right body-images and ways
of moving.
Nettleford moulds Dexter's singers
into human instruments who use the
body to reflect whatever is expressed
through the voice. In the unforgettable
selections from the South African Sophie
Mgcina's "Poppie Nongena", pride and
defiance are projected in the statuesque
carriage of the singers: the set of the head
and shoulders, the shape of the body,
the placement of the arms and feet. The

movement quiet, unhurried, restrained
-- is not there for its own sake, but is
designed to reinforce the mood and draw
the audience deeper into the human
drama. It does not matter that we do not
understand the words. The meaning is
always clear.
I have now heard and seen the Uni-
versity Singers' performance of "Poppie
Nongena" three times. Every time I have
been deeply moved not only by the
music and the unforgettable timbre of
the lead singer Pauline Findlay's voice,
but by a sense of having been taken
back in history to the age of the Greek
chorus in which music, gesture and mo-
tion were welded together in an indis-
soluble artistic whole. 5
"Poppie Nongena" is by nature a the-
atrical work which lends itself to such
treatment; but it is not an isolated ex-
ample. Jamaican folk music is an in-
herently theatrical music of enormous
emotional range and depth which Dexter
and Nettleford penetrate with insights
that are uncannily matched and expres-
sed with equal excellence in their res-

The University Singers performing in the Mt. Airy Forests in St.
Andrew at the launching of an essay competition sponsored by Forest
Industries Development Company (FIDCO).


pective art forms. Time and again one
is amazed at the ways in which Nettle-
ford illuminates a felicitous passage in
Dexter's arrangements, not only by the
use of gesture but also by the use of
space and movement. Singers move singly
or in groups; they assemble, re-assemble
- not just as singers but as iconographic
figures always with the intention of
giving the audience a deeper understand-
ing of the words and the music and of
the essential collective unconscious
from which they originated.

The Accompong song "House an'
Lan" (another of those haunting modal
melodies that seem to have their being
in another world) is an example simi-
lar to, but essentially far removed from
"Poppie Nongena". Accompanied only
by an acoustic guitar, the body-instru-
ments are shaped into graceful figures

that nevertheless convey an inner
strength. The movements and gestures
are gentle and protective, conveying
the sense of hardship and loneliness
shared and understood among women
in a way that only women know.

Edeh edeh, oh oh oh oh
Edeh edeh,
House an' lan' a buy fambly oh!
Edeh yah no yerri oh
Me no ha' nobody oh
House an' lan'a-buy fambly oh!

In the women's songs "Sunday Day
Clothes", "June Come", "Mango Time",
we see revealed before us the character
of Caribbean woman, when guards are
lowered and suffering, anxiety and
unfulfilled expectations are shared and
expressed, often in the most vivid and
unintentionally humorous terms.

June come mi nuh marry
July come mi nuh marry
If August come an mi nuh marry
Mi nah go marry again
"June come" (Trinidad)

Before me married an' go hug up
mango tree
Mi wi live so, mi wan
Before me married an' go hug up
mango tree
Mi wi live so, mi wan.

Verse 1:
A jus'March before las' di gal Liza
married an'she mawga yu si,
Every night a she wan de a yard
She nuh sleep 'till day light.

Verse 2:
Poor Liza, har husband' nuh gi
har a cent
An'she ha'fi pay de rent.
She ha' fi fine money buy food
an' clothes
A n'fi min'pickney Rose.

Before mi married an'go bite mi
finga nail,
Mi wi live so, mi wan
Before mi married an' go bite mi
finga nail
Mi wi live so, mi wan.
"Mango Tree" (Jamaica)

Last year, the group concentrated
particularly on male/female relation-
ships and the tension that is generated
between the sexes in a matriarchal society.
There is a refreshing absence of the kind
of sentimental, idealized character-
ization bearing little resemblance to real
life, that tends to give some folk song
performances the artistic verisimilitude
of prettified picture postcards. The
underlying battle of the sexes is humor-
ously revealed in songs such as "Dinah
Where Is Me Dinner" where the persua-
sive use of different male voices shows
the Jamaican male in various manipu-
lative guises and the female at her most
stubborn and uningratiating; but most
of all in "Mi Dumplin Gawn" in which
Dexter creates an hilarious vignette of
Lilieth Nelson as a raw, matriarchal bari-
tone (sic) accompanied by a shrill com-
mentary of women's voices set against
an appropriately overweight bass whose
voice is rendered colourless by guilt.
It is a gem of a performance --of subtle
timing, delayed beats, sudden silences
and changing tone colours leading to the
final denouement.
The male chorus "Domino" is another
gem. Based upon the most rigid 'call and
response' format, it concentrates into a
song lasting little more than two minutes
all the excitement, tension and cam-
araderie of a domino game complete
with authentic gestures, facial expres-
sion and a tremendous range of voice
colour and dynamics. It is an outstand-
ing example of the peculiar excitement
that can be generated in the listener
when art is challenged by and transcends
the limitations of form, but does so in
the context of a mundane, everyday
happening. It is a rare experience.
The range of styles which the Univer-
sity Singers commands is noteworthy.
Classical, jazz, African, folk, pop, panto-
mime, popular and Jamaica 'art' song
(a commendable principle seems to have
always been the encouragement of local
composers) all types of music have
appeared in their programmes over
the past five years.
Dexter's re-arrangement of reggae
songs for a different performance group
in a different performance setting from
the original is revelatory. (The NDTC
Singers have done the same and here
one detects the influence of Nettle-
ford, whose perception in these mat-
ters is unerring). The idea of perform-
ing reggae melodically, emphasizing
other musical aspects besides the bass,
the rhythm and volume, brings out an


intrinsic quality which is often ob-
scured in the conventional reggae for-
mat by self-indulgent production tech-
niques and over-amplification. The
deceptively simple folk-like arrange-
ments of songs like "Nengeh-Nengeh",
"Girlie-Girlie", "One Love", "Re-
demption Song" and "No Woman No
Cry", using choral voices and folk style
accompaniments, reveal reggae's essen-
tially rural character and the enduring
quality of songs which, although com-
posed for a consumer market, will prob-
ably survive both in their original for-
mats and in new formats, simply be-
cause they are so good and so much a
part of the primary, heightened experi-
ence of Jamaican life.
There is in Jamaica, let us face it, a
cultural filter that many people auto-
matically employ when they listen to
reggae, simply because they cannot
abide the 'pop' style. This filter blots
out the basic cultural energy of the
music so that it can never be a means to
higher experience, as it is for so large a
proportion of the population. The
NDTC Singers and the University Singers
have both, in different ways, by-passed
the particular to reveal those collective
characteristics of artistic expression
which are common to all Jamaicans, in-
dicating the essential 'oneness' of Jam-
aican music that is often obscured by
different styles.
The art of Dexter and Nettleford
exists not just for its own sake al-
though it could easily be approached as
such and withstand the most searching
scrutiny. It goes far beyond that to a
level that reveals us to ourselves and en-
ables us to reach a deeper understanding
of who and what we are.
In writing this series, I have long
puzzled over why I find it difficult to
contain my enthusiasm for the Univer-
sity Singers. For almost every virtue
that I can find in the group, there is a
parallel one to be found in another
group. Except one. That is their break
with the European tradition of treating
musical performance as something aim-
ed directly at an audience.
To them, every song is a self-contained
dramatic situation in which the singers
sing, not to the audience, but principal-
ly to one another. This does not detract
from the music (although Nettleford's
staging employs the utmost cunning in
ensuring that the voices are projected
in the right direction); on the con-
trary, it has the effect of drawing the
audience deeper into the performance


to the point where it actually identifies
with the characters and is caught up in
the situation. The audience is therefore
no longer an onlooker separated from
the artists. Tied to them initially by that
compelling rhythmic bond that is the
Caribbean's most seductive artistic
weapon, it is gratuitously and irresistibly
drawn into the action.

Dexter and Nettleford have, to my
mind, pointed the way to what could be
a new Caribbean tradition in folk per-
formance in which music, movement,
iconographic symbols, gesture and facial
expression are united into an organic
style of expression that has few parallels
- anywhere.
It is all the more shameful, therefore,
that there does not exist one video tape
or even one good quality sound record-
ing of the present work of the Univer-
sity Singers. It is pure dereliction of
duty on their part that this state of af-
fairs exists; and yet another illustration
of our habitual neglect of document-
ation, and the inability of our best
groups to appreciate their own artistic
worth and see themselves in historical


1. This lies very close to the Hindu philo-
sophy of voice training. 'However
much the voice may be developed,
however great may be its volume, and
however far-reaching it has been made
by practice, one must yet feel respon-
sible for preserving one's natural voice
unharmed through every stage of devel-
opment ... For every person must
know that there is no other voice like
his; and if that peculiarity belonging to
the voice of each soul is lost, then
nothing is left of it'. Sufi Inayat Khan

Music (Sh. Muhammed Ashraf, Pakis-
tan) 1971.
2, I have lately suffered the frustration of
this neglect in trying to describe to
someone the electrifying performances
of spirituals by the East Queen Street
Baptist Young Men's Fraternal Choir
under J.J. Williams. No one who did not
hear that choir in the 'sixties can ima-
gine the level of unparalleled excellence
which they achieved and it is totally
lost to posterity.
Note: Since this article was written,
the University Singers have won the
JAMI Award for the best folk-music
group in Jamaica.


MANOFF, Tom, Music: a living language,
New York: W.W. Norton and Company,
Pamela O'Gorman, director of the Ja-
maica School of Music, is our regular
music columnist.

Jamaica's national cultural institution was
founded in 1879. Its main functions are to
foster and encourage the development of
culture, science and history in the national
interest. It operates as a statutory body un-
der the Institute of Jamaica Act, 1978 and
falls under the portfolio of the Prime
The Institute's central decision-making body
is the Council which is appointed by the
Minister. The Council consists of individuals
involved in various aspects of Jamaica's
cultural life appointed in their own right,
and representatives of major cultural
organizations and institutions.
The Institute of Jamaica consists of a central
administration and a number of divisions
and associate bodies operating with varying
degrees of autonomy.
Chairman: Hon. Hector Wyntor, OJ.
Executive Director: everley Hall-Allyne
Deputy Director: Dxter Manning
Central Administration
12-16 East Street, Kingston Tel: 92-20620
African Caribbean Institute (ACIJ)
Roy West Building, 12 Ocean Blvd.
Kingston Mall Tel: 92-24793

Cultural Training Centre,
1 Arthur Wint Drive, Kingston 5
School of Art Tel:92-92352
School of Dance- Tel/:92-92350/68404
School of Drama Tel: 92-92353/68335
School of Music Tel: 92-92351/68751

Institute of Jamaica Publications Ltd.
(Jamaica Journal)
2A Suthermere Road, Kingston 10
Tel: 92-94785/94786/68817

Junior Centre
19 East Streeet, Kingston Tel: 92-20620

Head Office
12-16 East Street, Kingston Tel: 92-20620
National Museum of Historical
Archaeology, Port Royal Tel: 98-42452
Fort Charles Maritime Museum
Port Royal
Arawak Museum
White Marl
Military Museum
Up Park Camp, 3rd GR Compound
Jamaica Peoples Museum of Craft
and Technology
Spanish Town Square Tel: 98-42452
Old Kings House Archaeological Museum
Spanish Town Square Tel: 98-42452

National Gallery of Jamaica
Roy West Building, Ocean Boulevard,
Kingston Mall Tel: 92-28541

Natural History Library,
Museum and Gift Shop.
12-16 East Street, Kingston Tel: 92-20620

National Library of Jamaica
12-16 East Street, Kingston Tel: 92-20620

Z Museum Gift Shop
Institute of Jamaica, Natural History Division
(Tower Street foyer)

Original designs incorporating Jamaica's
fauna and flora on notelets, note pads,
T-shirts and tote-bags.

Also available: Colouring books, journals,
shell and glass ornaments, wooden earrings,
pins and jigsaw puzzles all with a Jamaican

Womne anfeied a60 0
Opening hours:
Monday Thursday 10 am 4 pm
Friday 10 am 3 pm


Contract manufacturers and exporters
Cosmetics, Personal-Care and Household
Cleaning Products


Nanse Pen Industrial Complex
P.O. Box 192, Weymouth Close
Kingston 20, Jamaica W.I.
Phone: 92-59733, 92-38597.

JOHN H. RASHFORD is assistant professor in the Department of
Sociology and Anthropology at the College of Charleston, South
Carolina. Previous contributions to JAMAICA JOURNAL are
"Plants, Spirits and the Meaning of 'John' in Jamaica" (17:2) and
"The Cotton Tree and the Spiritual Realm in Jamaica" (18:1).
ELIZABETH PIGOU, a Ph.D student in the Department of History,
University of the West Indies, Mona, is conducting research on Jam-
aica's social history 1914-45.
BETTY BAILEY is head of the Social Studies Department at Morant
Bay High School. She teaches history and economics.
LAURA TANNA works closely with the government's oral history
documentation programme, the Memory Bank. She is author of
Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral Histories (1985) and Baugh: Jamaica's
Master Potter (1986). Dr. Tanna isa regular contributor to JAMAICA
HAZEL RAMSAY is administrator, researcher and documentalist in
the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility to the Memory
Bank. Miss Ramsay has completed over eighteen years of fieldwork
in recording Jamaica's unwritten heritage.
EARL McKENZIE is a lecturer at Church Teachers College. His
poems have appeared in a number of periodicals including
Prism International and the Greenfield Review.
MICHELE JOHNSON is currently pursuing an M.A. degree in the
Department of History, University of the West Indies, Mona,



S. The Tradition goes on.
More than 60 years old in Jamaica,
Shell Company is among the elder
Statesmen of international petroleum
.....The company has maintained a
frontline position in the field of re-
search related to the world's most dy-
namic industry, and has trained many
thousands of Shell people, who
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f In Jamaica and elsewhere, Shell
makes a point of contributing to those
institutions and systems which foster
management and development.
And Shell will continue to do so with
I every resource at its command.

Rockfort, Kingston 2, Tel: 92-87230-9, 92-87300-9



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By Noel Vaz
Revels in Jamaica 1682 1838
Richardson Wright
Kingston: Bolivar Press (new ed.)
1986, 378 pp. Illustrated.

evels in Jamaica by the American
author Richardson Wright was
first published in 1937 by Dodd,
Mead and Co. and reissued by Benjamin
Blom Publishers in New York in 1967.
It has now been reissued by Bolivar
Press and printed by Cambridge Uni-
versity Press.
In the foreword written in Montego
Bay in 1937, Wright says that when
his friends asked him why he had both-
ered to write these accounts of Jam-
aican revels, he replied that they were
in some poor measure a return for the
happiness, health and friendship that
some twenty winters vacationing in
Jamaica had afforded him and his
wife. A wonderful blurb for tourism of
the day or even for today, some fifty
years later. But the book is written with
such zest that I suspect that the author
simply had to carry on with the research
for his chosen assignment, once he got
These accounts reflect and describe
various festive activities including routs
and balls and fairs not strictly the-
atrical events but very much the order
of entertainment in the early days. As
the title page says, the book covers
'Plays and Players of a Century, Tum-
blers and Conjurers, Musical Refugees
and Solitary Showmen, Dinners, Balls
and Cockfights, Darky Mummers and
Other Memories of High Times and Merry
It is obvious from the descriptions of
these early 18th century days that people
ran quickly to pleasure because life was
so precarious; if it wasn't 'yellow jack'
that plagued the island it was malaria
or dysentery or some other threatening
Many of the festivities were control-
led by the master of the revels, an an-
cient office dating back to the days of

c c -




John Moody

Henry the Eighth. These officers had the
right to license all plays and companies
of actors and to give permission for fetes
and public entertainments. The censor-
ship of texts of plays was required of
them, in order that no foulness, oaths,
ribaldry and references to religion or to
the government of the day were allowed
in public performances. The office de-
veloped into that of the lord chamber-
lain's in the 19th century, who cen-
sored all playtexts and was much
disliked by 20th century authors and
producers. The office was finally aban-
doned in the sixties, to everyone's
But it is difficult to see how these
masters of the revels prevented entertain-
ment from getting out of hand in an age
which was so lax in morals and often
quite scandalous in behaviour. Wright
makes reference to a Governor Cunning-
ham who by an act of his own intemper-
ance at a public entertainment fell down
inebriated and met his end which of
course was no -way for a governor to
behave, even in those days.
There are many references to a
mistress of the revels in the 1750s at
a period when there was widespread
activity not only in Kingston and
Spanish Town theatres but in a proper
theatre in Montego Bay. The scarlet
career of the mistress of the revels,
Teresa Constantia Phillips 'Con' as she

was familiarly known had already
reached notorious proportions (they said
her scandals were as public as Charing
Cross) even before she arrived in Jamaica
in 1738. For she had published her
memoirs in London and used the public-
ation to blackmail many of her lovers
by charging them considerable sums to
have their names removed from the
pages of the printed text.
Jamaica in the 18th century also
proved to be a haven for expatriates
who ran from the hazards of war and
revolutions in their own countries in
much the same way that we harboured
many talented theatre people dura-
tionists as they were called who fled
Europe and England during World War
Among 18th century arrivals was one
John Moody fleeing from the Jacobite
Rebellion of 1745 who found here a
group of keen amateur players putting
on plays in a rented warehouse con-
verted into a theatre on Harbour Street,
Kingston. John Moody who was later to
become famous in England started his
career with this amateur company, play-
ing Shakespeare and farce. So successful
and popular did he become that theatre-
goers in Kingston opened a subscription
that enabled him to go to London to
recruit a professional company. Moody
undoubtedly put Jamaica on the theatri-
cal map because his success with this
professional company lured others to
our shores, even after he himself had
departed to play comic roles in David
Garrick's famous company in London.
Soon, encouraged by Moody's suc-
cess, there arrived a company led by
English actor Lewis Hallam and his wife.
They called themselves the Company of
Comedians and played here for three or
four years to start with, both in Kingston
and Spanish Town, before taking the
company to the southern states of
America and to New York. But they
were to return to Jamaica at a later
date because of the impending Ameri-
can War of Independence 1774 85
which caused many professional actors
to come from these colonies to Jamaica.
In fact, Wright tells us that after the

peace there seemed to be if not a bee-
line at least a comfortable curve from
Harbour Street, Kingston to Broadway,
New York.
Jamaica itself was not altogether
immune from the War of Independence.
The year 1782 saw dark clouds of
apprehension as the French fleet under
deGrasse who had captured St. Kitts,
Nevis and Montserrat headed for Ja-
maica. As we all know, Admiral Rodney
scotched the attempt in a victory
known as the 'Battle of the Saints'.
That year also saw a great deal of
activity in the theatre. Hallam's Company
of Comedians returned from America
and were giving seasons in a proper
theatre in Kingston. During the year,
thirty-eight plays were presented in the
Kingston theatre including works by
Shakespeare, Sheridan, Farquhar, Gar-
rick, Dryden among others, as well as
contemporary comedies. The players
who offered Hamlet and She Stoops
to Conquer were also giving the current
popular farces Padlock and Cross
Purposes among others.
Montego Bay, it would seem from
Wright's accounts, also offered much
varied entertainment in the 18th cen-
tury. He describes a particular event
which the Cornwall Chronicle of 21
December 1776 advertised thus: 'On
Saturday, December 28, there will be
exhibited in Mr. Leggs Great Room, a
new exhibition called: A Dish of Mr.
Foot's tea in which the principal
scenes of various plays will be played in
their proper dress'. The Chronicle goes
on to list the items starting with King
Lear with Thunder and Lightning . .
and some ten other scenes (the people
in those days believed in giving the pub-
lic their money's worth). The programme
ended with "Bucks, have at ye all" or
"The inside of a playhouse". Tickets
were to be had at all taverns at 6/8d each.
It was shortly after this that the
Chronicle announced the completion of
a proper theatre for the accommodation
of the public of Montego Bay, com-
menting that 'the commodius and neat
construction of the house surprised, and
the stage lent itself admirable to the
Company of Comedian's endeavours'.
This was probably according to Wright
-Montego Bay's third theatre.
It is small wonder that with three
busy centres of theatrical activity in
Kingston, Spanish Town and Montego
Bay, the reputation of the Jamaican
theatre stood high. When George Wash-

ington, himself an avid theatregoer,
encouraged the reopening of theatres in
the United States after the War of
Independence, the highest recommenda-
tion for any play or company opening
in New York was the proud billing,
'Straight from success in Jamaica'.
Revels in Jamaica with its insights into
the manners and mores of 17th and 18th
century Jamaica, its lively descriptions
and details of theatrical events, is a
must for reference libraries and is a
collector's item for theatre buffs. This is
a limited edition with a choice of buck-
ram or leather bound covers.
Noel Vaz recently retired as tutor in
drama, Creative Arts Centre, Univer-
sity of the West Indies, Mona.

By L. Alan Eyre

Koori: A Will to Win, The Heroic Resistance,
Survival and Triumph of Black Australia
James Miller
Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1985

he best cure when feeling sorry
for oneself is to learn about some-
one who was in a worse position
and has won through. West Indians
should read this book, because it is about
the black struggle in Australia and writ-
ten by a black-James Miller, a Wonnarua
from central New South Wales who is
proud of his aboriginal ancestry and
heritage. The very existence of such a
book is the 'triumph' which the title
asserts, for there is no cadre of elo-
quent black writers in Australia in any
way comparable with ours in the Carib-
bean. So the author himself is an
almost unique figure. Moreover, unlike
the black poet Bill Neidjie, he has need-
ed no assistance or 'interpretation' by
whites in order for his work to be
published in English. It is clear, straight-
forward social and economic history,
plainly yet pungently recorded with a
minimum of histrionics and interpreted
entirely and unselfconsciously from the
black standpoint.
The book is a sort of Australian
Roots, as Miller traces his ancestry-as
far as he can, and he begins by describing
the way of life of his Koori people before
the 'Invasion' by the British. His ances-
tors fought back helplessly as the lands
of his tribe were 'given' to veteran of-
ficers of the British Army, among the
very richest and most productive lands
of the entire continent. He proposes that
the name Koori, originally the self-

identity term for aborigines in his area
in the eighteenth century, be applied
to all blacks or part-aborigines through-
out Australia. Whether this suggestion
will be widely accepted remains to be

The most interesting aspect of the
book is the way Miller systematically
expounds and exposes the various
pretexts, backed up by philosophical
theories, that were used by the whites
to control and oppress the blacks, and
shows that all of them were simply
coverups for simple racism. He demon-
strates that 'Koori hatred for the white
man' not only had a rational basis, but
given the hypocrisy they met with, was
more or less inevitable.

The appalling nature of this racism is
seen in the fact that it is only within the
past twenty years that blacks have been
enumerated in Australian census sta-
tistics at all! Before that, the basic
assumption was that if they could be
assumed not to exist, they could be ig-
nored with impunity. And were they
really human anyway?

From a white Australian standpoint
the role and work of the Aborigines'
Protection Board is a part of national
history to be rather smugly proud of.
The philosophical inspiration of this
government body was the anthropolo-
gical work of such eminent social
scientists as Radcliffe-Brown and Elkin.
Of this Protection Board, James Miller
has not a good word to say. The sixty-
year-long epoch of its 'rule' over blacks
is described as an inhuman stranglehold,
a time of brutal oppression and brain-
washing, its methods fit only to be com-
pared with the Nazi gestapo. In one
harrowing passage, Miller describes how
in 1940 the board's police broke into
his grandmother's home at four o'clock
one morning and dragged away five
young children from their mother, and
charged them in court with being un-
controllable (a charge dismissed by the
court in the end). They were not allowed
to return home despite being cleared of
the 'offence'. The policy of the board
was to destroy black identity and cul-
ture and raise all black children as wards
of the state, 'training' them to be diligent
labourers and domestics. Miller adds
laconically: 'probably no-one in Aus-
tralia realized that Gestapo-like tactics
were being used against the Koori
people in that democratic country our
soldiers were proudly defending' (p.
158). One of the five children, aged nine,


James Miller
in a Protection Board institution, wet
her bed one night, and was 'belted until
the blood came out of her back'.
The staff at the institution where
Miller's Aunt Jean lived told her:
There is a good chance that you will
marry a white man and your children
will be lighter and they will get caught
up with a white man and their children
will be lighter still until they are com-
pletely white and that's how the Abori-
gine blood will be bred out. (p. 166).
The Welfare Board which replaced
the Protection Board was, according to
Miller, no better. It displayed 'a sicken-
ing, insipid paternalism' (p.177).
Miller recounts the various stages by
which his people were humiliated from
the Invasion onwards. First there was
naked force Governor Brisbane's martial
law was 'a legal device to protect the
[British] troops'. Then there was the
agonizing dilemma of deciding whether
the blacks were citizens or not, whether
occupancy of land implied ownership,
problems always solved to. the detri-
ment of the blacks and the material
advantage of the whites. If a Koori
assaulted a white woman, it was rape
and deserved the most brutal of exe-
cutions. If it was the reverse it was
excusable because there were notenough
white women to go around. The mis-
sionaries saw the blacks as depraved
pagans and often engaged in harsh,
even cruel discipline, to enforce puri-
tanical standards of conduct. Smug,
conceited evolutionists identified them
as the missing link with the apes. As
Miller indicates, attitudes have changed
dramatically over the two centuries of
European-Aboriginal contact, but at
every step equality and cultural identity
were never conceived as desirable except
by the blacks themselves, 'For 200
years Kooris have been forced onto land
that no-one else wanted' (p.199).

The picture Miller so graphically yet
dispassionately draws of blacks in abject
poverty in an affluent Australia -
especially in his own family is not for
sensitive stomachs. Miller, nearly twenty
years younger than this reviewer, was
raised in a shack in a shanty settlement
far more materially squalid than those
in Jamaica, which this reviewer has writ-
ten about. In the 1950s Miller's aged
great-grandmother lived and died inside
an upturned water-tank with a sack for
a door and that in a town (Singleton,
NSW) that the reviewer has visited and
which must be one of the wealthiest
in the world with twenty-two rich coal
mines in the immediate vicinity.
As a black Australian, Miller sees
nothing to celebrate in the forthcoming
bicentennial in 1988. He feels that in-
viting blacks to take part is like 'asking
Jews to celebrate the birth of the Third
Through all the bitterness of this
book and that is not as pervasive as
might be expected an important mes-
sage comes through clearly: the present
struggle for aboriginal land rights must
succeed, not only to right past wrongs


Wst Indian literature continues to
be well served by those stalwart pioneers
Bim and Kyk-over-al. The latest issue of
Bim (no. 69, December 1985) contains
a well-balanced mix of poetry, short
stories and literary criticism, as well as
articles on two nicely contrasting fig-
ures from New World history: "Estevan:
the First Great African Explorer in the
Columbian Era", and the linguist
Douglas McRae Taylor, "A European
Leader in Caribbean Culture". The
loyalty that Bim has elicited from its
writers is suggested by the presence in
this issue of such early contributors as
Geoffrey Drayton, Harold Marshall,
Edward Brathwaite and lan McDonald.
McDonald's poetry also appears in
Kyk, no. 35 (October 1986), of which
he is co-editor. The poetry in this issue
seems stronger than the prose fiction.
Among the articles, Elaine Campbell's
"Report from Curacao", on contempo-
rary women writers from that Dutch
Caribbean island, is (like one or two of
the articles in Bim, no 69) welcome evi-
dence of the continuing concern of these
magazines in promoting in the English-
speaking Caribbean an interest in the lit-

but to insure a future for blacks:
If Kooris can develop an economic or
culture base in land over which we
have freehold title, then we will not be
as vulnerable to the racial whims of the
dominant society (p.225).

Essentially, as geographers have em-
phasized for a very long time, the prob-
lem all along has been one of land at
first, land as territory or culture hearth,
then as a base for material wealth and
status, then as a basis for power, now as
a mark of identity and belonging. A
people without land is a people with-
out heart, or hope, or strength.
The most bitter paragraph in the
whole book is the last:
I hope my children or grandchildren
will want to celebrate the achievements
of an Australia that will be better than
the Australia of today. But maybe
western and communist civilisations
will have 'progressed' so far by then
that they will self-destruct. Then we
will all be back eating half-raw kan-
garoo on a cold winter's night.

L. Alan Eyre is Reader in the Depart-
ment of Geography, University of the
West Indies, Mona.

erature of the non-English-speaking
This interest is also unequivocally
declared in the first number (October
1986) of the world's first journal de-
voted to criticism of West Indian
literature the Journal of West Indian
Literature, published by the English
Departments of the University of the
West Indies and edited by Mark McWatt.
The focus is to be on 'articles that are
the result of scholarly research in the
literature of the English-speaking Carib-
bean', but articles on the literatures of
the non-English-speaking Caribbean will
also be considered, 'provided such arti-
cles are written in English and have a
clear relevance to the themes and con-
cerns of Caribbean literature in English
or are of a comparative nature'.
To set an example, the first number
of JWIL carries an article on French
Caribbean literature, among articles
which deal with long-established, new
and little-known West Indian writers,
such as Martin Carter, Lorna Goodison
and Eliot Bliss respectively.
Contributions should be addressed to
the Editor, Journal of West Indian Liter-
ature, Department of English, University.
of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados.
The journal is published twice yearly.


These brief notes on books
received do not preclude a longer

Listen, The Wind
Roger Mais
Kingston; Port of Spain:
Longman Caribbean Limited, 1986
160 pp.

Twenty-two short stories in-
cluding works not previously
published edited and intro-
duced by Kenneth Ramchand.
Thematic sections explore
urban life; male-female re-
lationships; rural life; the place
of women in Jamaican society;
and the disillusionment of
young adults who migrate to
Kingston in search of a better

Two Can Play and School's Out
Trevor Rhone
Kingston; Port of Spain:
Longman Caribbean Limited,
1986, 138 pp.

Two of Rhone's most success-
ful plays in which he takes a
perceptive but humorous
look at Jamaican society.
Two Can Play examines the
pressures on a lower middle
class marriage in a context of
political instability, while
School's Out is a comic
expose of the educational

The Jumbie Bird
Ismith Khan
Kingston; Port of Spain:
Longman Caribbean Limited,
1986, 190 pp.

A novel set among the East
Indian community in Trinidad
which explores the theme of
dispossession and the search
for identity which is central
to West Indian writing.

*' S

Plays for Today
Errol Hill (ed.)
Kingston; Port of Spain:
Longman Caribbean Limited,
1986, 233 pp.

Plays which draw heavily on
material from Afro-Caribbean
life by three outstanding play-
wrights, edited and introduced
by Errol Hill. Includes Hill's
Man Better Man, Dennis
Scott's An Echo in the Bone
and Derek Walcott's Ti-Jean
and his Brothers.

i r-
~~- :: 1-~

Lionheart Gal
Honor Ford-Smith (ed.)
London: The Women's Press,
1986, 298 pp.

Fifteen compelling life stories
told in their own words by
members of the international-
ly known Sistren Theatre Col-
lective. The stories are moving
human documents which
'chart the terms of resistance
in women's daily lives and
illustrate ways in which
women move from the ap-
parent powerlessness of ex-
ploitation to the creative
power of rebel conscious-
ness . . '

Black Albino
Namba Roy
Kingston; Port of Spain:
Longman Caribbean Limited,
1986, 206 pp.

Republication of the novel
that first appeared in 1961, a
few months before the death
of Namba Roy, London-based
Maroon artist and writer from
Accompong, Jamaica.The his-
torical novel is set among
the Maroons of the Cockpit
Country during the first half
of the eighteenth century.

Facing the Sea: a new
anthology from the
Caribbean region
Anne Walmsley and
Nick Caistor (eds.)
London: Heinemann
Educational Books, 1986, 151 pp.

Prose and poetry from the
Spanish, French, Dutch and
English Caribbean. Selections
from major as well as new
writers. Since meant mainly
for the CXC English B exams,
contains helpful notes and

A new anthology from the Carbbean region



Message to the People
rhe C ,,s,,,of Afrk,,n Phillph,

Message to the People: The
Course of African Philosophy
Marcus Garvey
Dover; Massachusetts:
The Majority Press, 1986, 209 pp.

Twenty-two lessons prepared
by Garvey to train a cadre of
leaders to carry on the work
of the UNIA; represents the
distillation of a lifetime of
organisational experience.
Published for the first time,
the wide-ranging subjects
covered include: leadership,
diplomacy, elocution, com-
munism, self-initiative and the
history of the UNIA. Edited
by Garvey scholar Tony
It a Come
Michael Smith
London: Race Today
Publications. 1986, 61 pp.

Posthumously published first
collection by 'Mikey' Smith,
edited by Mervyn Morris. Re-
verberates with the rhythms
and political power of the
late dub poet.

Bibliography: Bob Marley
Kingston: National Library of
Jamaica, pp. 23, J$15.

Bibliography: Bob Marley in-
augurates the National Lib-
rary's Occasional Bibliography
Series (to be followed in June
1987 by Bibliography: Marcus
The Bob Marley bibliography
lists items on the reggae star
in the NLJ collection, in-
cluding books, articles in
periodicals and in the Gleaner
over the period 1976-1985.
Works giving background in-
formation on social conditions
and the development of
popular music in the period
Bob Marley lived are also list-
led; those publications with
discography of Marley's re-
cords are noted.


Christopher Gonzalez

By Gloria Escoffery

'A need, an anguish, a restlessness, a buzzing'.

n the world of art and artists what
is it that distinguishes the men
from the boys? I have been asking
myself that question while studying.
with some awe, a number of works and
photographs of works by Christopher
Gonzalez from different phases of his
career. It isn't precosity, or versatility
or even virtuosity, all of which are
demonstrated by Gonzalez, but, surely,
evidence of that stamina which enables
him to hang in there over the years; al-
most imperceptibly evolving from year
to year. Such gifted individuals wrest
from their environment and the parti-
cular circumstances of their lives, from
the imponderables which they perceive
to be their ethnic and artistic heritage,
just what they need to fulfill the pro-
mise within them.
For there to be any lasting significance
in their work there must, in the first
place, be a capacity to endure anguish
and its obverse joy -by which I mean
not surrendering passively to them but
using them as positives in the act of
creation. The universal human emotions
may be amplified, as they seem to be in
Gonzalez, by tentacles reaching out into
a community, or constellation of experi-
ence. Then there is also the factor of
commitment to a lifetime of labour
within the chosen discipline. Luckily,
perhaps, the artist with a yearning for
nirvana is unlikely to resolve the con-
flicts that keep him twisting and turn- r
ing within the niche of his metaphysical I
predicament. As long as he lives and
continues to work he must be regarded
not as one who has 'arrived' but as a
seeker for solutions to new, or more
likely, recurrent problems.
Because of the blind, stubborn nature
of this search, such driven beings are like-
ly to be difficult to deal with, in their

Beaten copper.
Hardingham collection.

personal lives and in the intractability of
their works. It is not surprising that
they come into head-on collision with
officialdom, as Gonzalez did in 1983 in
the episode of the rejected Bob Marley
statue.1 Misunderstandings develop
through lack of communication; the
breach widens as sensitivity to public
criticism becomes a key issue. In the less
publicised episode of the rejection of a
Christ figure commissioned for Holy
Cross by the Roman Catholic Church in
1968, the circumstances remain a little
mysterious, but for some reason the pa-
tron was dissatisfied with the finished
It is tempting to rush to the defence
of Gonzalez with the taunt attributed to
Goethe, 'what else is barbarism but an
incapacity for distinguishing excellence?'
This would provoke the Philistines to
retort, quoting d'Alembert, 'Woe to the
productions of an art, all the beauty of
which is discernible but by artists'.2 But
this is no place for the rhetoric of de-
bate. Readers who wish to clarify their
personal point of view may consult the
columnists mentioned in the footnotes.
For my part I suggest that the Marley
statue be looked at more objectively
and studied within the context of the
artist's total oeuvre. It is not necessarily
his worst, or greatest, achievement sim-
ply because of'the attendant publicity.
The fact is, that it is the uncomfortable
destiny of personalities like Gonzalez
to 'force issues out of order' as Taine
has so neatly expressed it. Gonzalez
believes that the Marley statue would
have been accepted, and even in time
loved, if the public had been prepared
beforehand by press publicity designed
to explain its innovatory character; also
if it had not been so crudely exposed to
an unruly crowd while in the midst of
the confusion of erection on the site.
The problem of innovation in public
statuary remains a live one, to which
politicians need to give some thought.
What seems bizarre today may become
commonplace tomorrow. The irony is
that thousands of Jamaicans who will
never visit either Celebrity Park or the
National Gallery, to which the statue
was consigned, had it impressed upon
their imaginations in the form of dra-
matic press photographs, notably a close
up in the magazine section of the Sun-
day Gleaner of 27 November 1983,
which shows only the top half of the
figure with the prophetic pointing arm
- and no sign of the roots.

Gonzalez had been infiltrating Jam-
aican consciousness from long before
this event, beginning in the early six-
ties when he first exhibited his works.
My purpose here is to incite more read-
ers to look with keener perception at
the work of Gonzalez, recognizing that
in his very greatness, and limitations,
he is to borrow the title used for one
of his portrait heads 'One of Us'

It is impossible within the scope of
this article to give an adequate exposition
of the artist's evolution, but it is time that
something in this line was attempted.
As far as I know, no catalogue raisonne
of Gonzalez's oeuvre has been published,
and many works will of necessity be
omitted; I have had no access to cata-
logues published in the U.S.A. where
many of Gonzalez's works are located,
in private collections. When I started to
compile a bibliography I realized that
the main value of this would be to refer
readers to illustrations. 3 In writing of a
sculptor, intimate knowledge of his
craft would be an advantage; I regret the
lack of training in this field. It would be
helpful if I could refer readers to re-
views worth reading. Alas, good art
criticism on the local scene is rare. I can
recommend reviews appearing in the
Gleaner over the period of the sixties
to the present time only for an irre-
levant quaintness which gives them
some sociological value.

The Sixties
In 1963 Christopher Gonzalez, aged
twenty, having majored in sculpture,
graduated from the Jamaica School of
Art. He was, he informs me for the re-
cord, the first bona fide graduate pro-
duced by this institution as it evolved
from its informal beginnings. Strongly
recommended by his tutor Bill Broome,
he, along with three other final year
students, obtained a commission to pro-
vide a decorative scheme for the prem-
ises of the Jamaica Manufacturers'
Association: the far-seeing Aaron
Matabon was the moving spirit behind
this project. Gonzalez produced the
design for and executed a figurative
carved relief in wood, which was placed
on the first floor, in isolation from the
joint work of his companions, because
it was so different in conception from
theirs. Going against the trend of the
day among his contemporaries, which
was towards abstraction older readers
may remember the spate of foetal forms
produced under the influence of Broome
- Gonzalez insisted on opting for a

figurative approach. Perhaps he felt the
need to grapple further with the human
form. But while eager to learn (and very
appreciative today of the discipline im-
posed by his tutors) he rebelled some-
what against the strictures of Broome,
who fostered a tight academic approach
in the portrait assignments executed in
clay, and abhorred such surface textures
as chisel marks. It took Gonzalez some
time, he says, to work himself free of
Broome's influence, and in disgust for
some time he gave up working in clay.
This hang-up from student days may
account for the release he later felt and
expressed in a thesis written in Cali-
fornia in the early seventies: 'Some
time in June I grasped some clay into
my hands and my figures started to
flow like the form and growth of

Although clearly an individualist in
choosing his artistic direction, Gon-
zalez was fully in harmony with the
prevalent mood among his contempor-
aries in the early sixties perhaps with
young artists of all times the world over;
his leaning towards pathos in mannerist
forms produced an aura of melancholy
bordering on the macabre which is not
unlike the mood of Picasso's blue period.
Like many young Jamaicans he felt
drawn towards the values of Rastafarian-
ism; born into a Roman Catholic family
background, he never, however, actually
adopted the Rastafarian faith.
After winning the first prize for
sculpture in the Jamaica Festival Exhibi-
tion for 1965, Gonzalez travelled to
Denmark as a guest artist. This experi-
ence was very important in his develop-
ment as it gave him the stimulus to carry
on with his symbolist or expressionist
experiments, strongly biased towards
a humanistic approach incorporating
elements of nature, particularly trees
and other growing things. It was the
Norwegian, Rodinesque sculptor Gustav
Vigeland who most of all caught his
imagination. While on tour in Norway
he visited the Vigeland Park and the
artist's studio (by then a museum).4
There he felt challenged to under-
take comparable large scale, idealistic
projects which would quicken the
imagination of his own countrymen.
Inspired by visionary thoughts about
man's place in the total scheme of
creation, Gonzalez produced, while in
Denmark a series of fourteen oil paint-
A word may be said at this point
about Gonzalez's oil paintings. Colour,

he says, is an entirely different way of
expressing a sense of life; it can be used
to capture fleeting visions more easily
than sculpture. I find Gonzalez's early
works in this medium fascinating in
their strongly rhythmic, muralistic qual-
ity. In his 1972 California thesis he has
on record photographs of three paint-
ings which, while mirroring his pre-
occupation of the early seventies with
mysterious spirits, are probably not very
different in style from the early Den-
mark series.
One regrets that such works as
Nocturnal Spirits remained in the U.S.A.
Local viewers may however see two of
these early compositions in oil in the
Olympia Collection one titled Living
and the Dead and the other dealing with
Social Abuse.
Even as a young graduate Gonzalez
was recognized in Jamaica as an artist
to be entrusted with serious public com-
missions. Before going to Denmark,
after completing a Jamaica Coat of
Arms in wood for the Prime Minister's
residence, he was called in to contribute
(in 1965) a life size memorial bust of
George William Gordon. This may be
seen today in the National Heroes Park,
in company with Edna Manley's Bogle.
Cast in bronze, Gonzalez's Gordon exerts
an extraordinary presence. Remaining
faithful to the photographic record,
Gonzalez has transcended the stiffness
of effigy, creating an image of inner
grace and dignity.
The late sixties also brought Gonzalez
into contention in the field of eccle-
siastical commissions. His c.v. lists a life
size figure of Christ in direct ciment
fondu and a 30" x 24" copper relief for
the U.W.I. chapel in 1967. I must con-
fess I have not yet had the opportunity
to view this early Christ figure. The artist
tells me that it was not in the strictest
sense a commission; someone saw the
work in his studio and thought it ideal
for the site. Gonzalez himself has not
yet viewed the work in its permanent
architectural setting.
The Holy Cross Church commission
of 1968 was quite a different matter,
being designed to complement Edna
Manley's Mary. The idea was to show
a resurrected Christ about to greet his
Mother. Why the resulting life size
figure in cast ciment fondu was rejected
by the Roman Catholic bishop remains
to me a mystery. The ostensible objec-
tion was that the penis was too promi-
nent. I have seen this work in the
Olympia Collection where it is one of

Christ. Ciment fondu
Collection: University of
the West Indies chapel.

Christ triumphant.
Beaten copper.
Collection: St. Jude's church.

Son of Man. Mahogany. Collection: Denny Repole.

Christ. Ciment fondu.
(front and rear views)
Collection: A.D. Scott.

the prized possessions of A.D. Scott
who acquired it when it was rejected by
the bishop. This ceremented Christ -
somewhat reminiscent of Epstein and
perhaps of the swathed shelter figures of
Henry Moore is the epitome of tender
concern for humanity, and the scarcely
perceptible evidence of masculinity
surely should offend no one.5 What
struck me particularly is the expressive
ness of the rear view. One wonders if
the statue was designed for a location
where the congregation could circulate
around it.
In the sixties, perceptive collectors
were on the lookout for works of Gon-
zalez which could be acquired before his
prices became too high or merely be-
cause they loved his sculptures. One of
his most faithful patrons was A.D.
Scott who, in addition to the paintings
mentioned above, amassed a collection
of at least six assorted sculptures in re-
lief and in the round, executed in cement.
Before referring specifically to some of
these, and to works of another consistent
patron, architect Denny Repole, I should
mention here some other works which
entered important collections. I think it
was the National Gallery's Man Arisen,
a life-size mahogany carving of 1966
(rather than the later Mystic Creation)
which found its way into the national
collection via a private commission fol-
lowed by a spell in the possession of
an art dealer. At any rate it was record-
ed in the catalogue which marked the
transfer of the national collection from
Devon House to its present site. Other
noteworthy works of the period ---which
I have not seen are a cast ciment
fondu figure executed for Key Homes
Ltd. and a copper relief for the residence
of Albert Wong.

The Olympia Centre is a good place
to view a variety of works which demon-
strate the exploratory techniques and
rather morbid preoccupations of Gon-
zalez in the sixties. There is, for instance,
an interesting life size head of an Old
Man in cast concrete which is one of a
series in which Gonzalez tests the limits
of expressionism in revealing character.
One is reminded of Leonardo da Vinci's
exercises in caricature. To depart some-
what from chronological sequence I
might mention that the Old Man anti-
cipates the more developed abstraction
of a head titled On the Cusp in the same
medium which Gonzalez presented as
part of a master's thesis in California
in 1972. This started out as a portrait,
but evolved into a more conceptual

image of inner conflict. The head re-
turned to Jamaica and was acquired by
Maurice Facey. During the sixties
Gonzalez produced many variants of the
Rasta head. Probably the most success-
ful is the life-size Rasta in the Repole
collection, a work which brilliantly
catches the intensity and 'reasoning'
power of many Rastafarians. Gonzalez
was also fascinated by the expressive-
ness of bodies and looked at friends and
acquaintances with an eye to generalised
interpretations. His friend Kofi Kayiga
provided the inspiration for the life-
size figure of a young man which may
be seen in the courtyard of the Olympia
Centre. Originally titled Meditation, later
The Unemployed, this youth seems to
me too graceful and fragile to bear the
weight of the second symbolic inter-
pretation.6 One interesting example of
conceptualised genre is the figure of a
Drummer, also in cement, in the Repole
collection. Initially inspired by watching
a member of the Mystic Revelation in
action, Gonzalez has caught the total
involvement of the drummer in his art.
But to get back to the macabrestrain in
the work of the young Gonzalez: Shat-
tered Dream and The Couple (which may
be compared by studying illustrations in,
respectively, JAMAICA JOURNAL 3:3
and the catalogue of the National
Gallery 1983 "Male and Female ..."
show) exemplify Gonzalez's preoccupa
tion with the drama of distress, whether
through poverty or unhappy sexual
relationships one is not sure. Of the two,
the three-quarter-length Couple seems
to me the more integrated composition.
In Shattered Dream the tedium of the
bony, wasted legs weakens the interest
generated by the top half of the com-
position and the heads too are less
interesting than in the more particu-
larised Couple. Perhaps Gonzalez per-
ceived the weakness of the full-length
relief and sought a three-quarter-view
solution which would, at the same time,
bring the pair into a more dynamic re-
lationship. However, I can not be sure
that The Couple is a later work. Shat-
tered Dream was exhibited in the 1969
Arts Festival. The Couple and a charcoal
study for it -- shown along with a 1970
charcoal drawing of the same theme,
are both dated 1968 in the "Male and
Female . catalogue. In both works
the hollow thorax of the male and the
skeletal structure of the arms is stressed.
In The Couple a certain spirituality is
conveyed by the spiky mesh of hair
around the heads, which echoes the splay
of the woman's fingers.

Every artist's work provides incom-
plete essays which are signposts to the
future. In the Repole collection there is
an interesting, but not entirely complete
Double Head carved in mahogany which
seems scarcely on speaking terms with
the works described above. The artist
told me that this work was commenced
in the late sixties and remained in his
studio in an unfinished state until
'discovered' by Mr Repole, who kept
urging him to complete it.

The Seventies
The seventies presented Gonzalez with
many opportunities for international
stimulus and exposure, particularly in
the U.S.A., where he lived for two dis-
tinct periods: first as a graduate student
at the California College of Art and
Craft (1970 72) and later as artist in
residence at Spellman College in Atlanta,
Georgia (1979 80).

The impact on Gonzalez of the North
American mood of protest, and es-
pecially of the Black Power movement,
was very strong. He was further exhila-
rated by the pace and hype of life in
San Francisco; there he became involved
with friends in the world of galleries
operated exclusively for black artists.
He made use of these commercial out-
lets, but drew the line at contractually
tying himself down to exposure on
segregated racial lines. A great stimulus
to his art was the discovery of African -
and also Amerindian traditions, not
only in art but in the underlying philo-
sophies and religions. In particular he
became preoccupied with the African
myth of Dogon, which embodies a cos-
mology embracing the relation of the
spirits and of the sexes in the process
of mystical transfer of creative power.
These ideas provided the motivation for
the main sculpture project in his master's
thesis, a pair of relief panels in con-
crete titled Meditation and Calling of
the Spirits. These works were in fact a
tribute to the blind mystic Ogotemmeli,
whose philosophy, or vision, is record-
ed in a book titled Conversations with
Ogotemmeli by the French anthropolo-
gist Marcel Griaule. In his thesis Gon-
zalez explains the genesis of the two
relief sculptures as they grew out of
images liberated by a spontaneous char-
coal drawing which was inspired by a
photograph of Ogotemmeli on the cover
of the book. From this point on, the
image of a sage, and the head above a
head, have been recurrent motifs in his

As I looked at the photographs of
these works I was struck by the clear i ..,
structure and lucidity, which corn-
pared favourably with the mannerist
gloom I had associated with the early.
works of Gonzalez. The artist explain-
ed that this was because of the light,
clay coloured patina used in the con-
crete reliefs executed in California. We
went on to discuss the patina of the
Marley bronze, which, he said, was -
somewhat darker than what he had
specified, but when the work returned
from the foundry in New York it was,
of course, too late to change it. Look-
ing at the statue since our conver-
sation it occurred to me, however,
that, though formidable to cope with ,
indoors, a very dark patina is probably
very effective in the bright sunlight. I
include this short digression here to
make the point that perhaps techni- .
call ignorant viewers like myself -
give too little thought to such con- Double Head. Mahogavny.
siderations. Collection: Denny Repole.
The Ogotemmeli-inspired works, in
accordance with Gonzalez's current pre-
occupation with black consciousness,
incorporated an element of protest.

sis, 'are also conveying the tribulations
of the whole Black nation; the shatter-
ing of beliefs, the deaths both physical
and spiritual, the awakening of the sun
spirits, the Black spirits'. The works are
beautiful, and even more so to me the
initial drawings, but I find them less
effective as a comment on the black
diaspora than another work of the time
- also a concrete relief titled Broken
Wall; here both animal and human skulls
animate the troubled surface of a screen,
or wall.
It is not surprising that, for the first
time experiencing the trauma of desegre-
gation and the civil rights movement in
the U.S.A., Gonzalez fell under the spell
of 'black consciousness'. His white tutors
at the college, he says, complained that
his portrayal of humanity was too ex- ,
clusively African. In the line of portrait
heads at this time Gonzalez seemed to /
move freely between studies of Jam- F
aican models and African-inspired styli- .____-_
zation. The realistic Rasta and a moving Calling of the Spirits. Concrete relief
portrait titled Mada also in concrete
- contrast with a mask-like plaster head
titled Silent Face, and the head of a
Nigerian woman with an exaggeratedly
long neck. I have already mentioned On
the Cusp. Here the lumps and bumps on
the skull are developed as small heads
which suggest, not the single guiding
spirit of Dogon, but conflicting impulses

Rasta. Concrete.

Silent Face. Plaster

which tear the troubled individual apart.
One recalls the Parboosingh drawing of
the head of Solomon, incorporating
numerous female figures; this must have
been produced at about the same time.
Sometimes comparable visions seem to
drift through an artistic community.
What baffled Gonzalez's tutors in
California was probably his virtuosity in
figurative sculpture, especially the
grounding in anatomy he had received
under Bill Broome; because of the bias
towards abstraction many American art
schools at that time were simply not
equipped to deal with such a maverick.
Gonzalez was by then a master in the
handling not only of plaster and cement,
but also various metals. He demonstra-
ted his mastery in a very African looking
welded steel Mother and Child, an ex-
pressionist fantasy in bronze titled
Earth Mother and, confounding his
tutors with a technique they thought
impossible to control, a hammered cop-
per relief titled Scorpio.
Symbolic representation of the tree
as a life image, which dates from the
Denmark period or before, had its
earliest realisation in the first Tree of
Life, executed in cement, and presented
as a part of his thesis. This was of course
to be followed by variations in cement,
cast in bronze and carved in wood; two
of these are in the Hardingham collec-
Through his contacts in California
and Georgia, Gonzalez started in the
seventies to make his personal dent in
the world of American art galleries.
However he remained remarkably im-
pervious to American avant garde move-
ments of the time. He seems to have an
ingrained conservatism and suspicion of
anything trendy which may be 'hurry
come up'. In our conversations he never
once mentioned Ngouchi, or Cesar, or
David Smith, or Stankiewicz, or for that
matter any of the big names on the
American horizon. When he speaks of
tradition in sculpture the name that
looms large is Brancusi, whose advances
in mysticism carried him further and
further from realism into a perfection-
ism which is totally abstract.
After the California sojourn it seems
that a feeling for greater simplification
crept into Gonzalez's style. In addition
to the effect of African sculptures and
mysticism, he also reacted to Amerin-
dian culture with its cryptograms and
totems and, on another level, to the
extreme gravity and monumentality of
Amerindian sculpture. The use of geo-

metric symbols related to the sun
spirit and its place in fertility rites, was
to appear fully in the seventies, and may
be seen in such works as the beaten cop-
per relief titled The Sage in the Bank of
Jamaica collection and Medicine Dance,
another copper relief, shown in the
1977 national exhibition. This line was
followed up in a cast ciment fondu re-
lief executed for the Linstead health
centre in 1978, also in the Fertility
symbol of the late seventies in welded
steel which adorns the external wall of a
building adjacent to the Olympia.
When he returned to Jamaica from
California in 1972 Gonzalez was ac-
claimed in local art circles as the most
distinguished sculptor of his generation.
This esteem was put on record in
JAMAICA JOURNAL 7:4, where readers
may refer to the remarks by John Max-
well at the opening of a joint show with
Kofi Kayiga at Devon House8 in 1973.
Not only honours and commissions but
new responsibilities pursued him. He
had taught at the Jamaica School of Art
between 1964-69. Between 1976-79 he
presided as chairperson in the sculpture
department. In 1975 he was awarded
the Institute of Jamaica Silver Musgrave
medal for sculpture. In the same year
the Olympia Centre staged a triumphant
show titled "Ten Years of Gonzalez".
More to the point in terms of his artistic
development, he was commissioned to
collaborate with Denny Repole in an
architectural scheme for the Manley
Memorial. Because of financial con-
straints this plan became somewhat
more constricted than originally plan-
ned but it still produced a fine result
in which architecture and sculpture
were coordinated in an original way.
The two life-size symbolic bronze figures
of a man and a woman by Gonzalez are
among our finest monuments. Today
they are a little difficult to make out as
one peers down through the distracting
shrubbery but there is an excellent
photograph of them in JAMAICA
Meanwhile Gonzalez had once more
come to the fore as a contender for ec-
clesiastical commissions. In 1973 he was
invited to provide a resurrected Christ
for St Jude's Anglican Church in Stony
Hill. The resulting relief, executed in
copper, provides an assured decorative
icon which offers no offending physiog-
nomic or anatomical features. It was
however, criticised by one specialist
in Christian iconography, the Reverend
Philip Hart, as being rather unorthodox
in its simultaneous allusions to the

Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the
Ascension. An interesting point raised
by Philip Hart relates to the exposure of
young Jamaican artists to African art.9
The beaten sheet iron Fertility refer-
red to above is used as an appropriate
illustration; this provides quite a con-
trast to the reproductions of other
works within the Christian tradition.
The mid-seventies was a time of en-
thusiastic official exposure of Jamaican
art in a variety of travelling exhibitions.
Gonzalez was well represented in the
bevy of collections which left our shores
in 1975: Thirty Jamaican Artists bound
for Mexico; Paintings and Drawings for
Havana, Cuba; Ten Jamaican Sculptors,
for the Commonwealth Institute, Lon-
don. Regrettably the National Gallery
catalogue for the London show is out of

The Eighties
Gonzalez spent the early years of the
eighties in Atlanta, that is until 1984
when he returned home to 'settle' in
Runaway Bay. He travelled back and
forth a great deal, however, mainly in
connection with the ill-fated Bob Marley
Memorial commission. This was set in
motion rather precipitately after the
death of Marley in 1981. Feelings al-
most of outrage at the untimely death
of the folk hero were still running high
in 1983 when the debacle occurred, and
this was undoubtedly a reason for the
heat that was generated. As most readers
are probably aware, there was a furore
in the park because the statue did not
represent the pop star as he was remem-
bered in life; the Gonzalez statue was
bustled off to the National Gallery and
Alvin Marriott was commissioned to pro-
vide a more conventional memorial.
The Gonzalez Marleyfeatured in the 1983
show at the National Gallery; and there
it still uncomfortably stands, in the
lobby, pending the day when, one hopes,
it will be appropriately sited out of

When I first saw the Marley statue
I wrote a letter to the Daily Gleaner
suggesting that the Jamaican man in the
street undoubtedly read the 'roots' base
as a skirt and felt this as a blow to his
sense of machismo; there may have been
some underground association in the
popular mind, if not in the artist's in-
tentions, by way of the figure of the
Belisario 'Actor Boy' so frequently re-
produced. Obviously Gonzalez had quite
a different objective, wishing to project


The Sage: Charcoal drawing.

Neptunian Sage. Charcoal drawing.

Self Portrait. Edna Manley Collection.

Prisoner. Welded Steel. Christopher Gonzalez.
Collection: Bank of Jamaica.

4..*U.W4 --

/9 .0~1. W''~.' ""* ac00

Bob Marley in symbolic terms as the
prototype Rastafarian seer.10

The head and upraised arm of the
Bob Marley statue are very fine, and no
one can deny the vitality of the statue
as a whole, but personally I still find
something incompletely realized in
the melding of symbolism and realism.
Apart from the question of whether
Marley should be immortalised as a
guitarist, which is one for musicologists,
the guitar, plus staff/microphone, plus
roots, add up to just too much for the
eye and/or imagination to cope with.
This was Gonzalez's big opportunity to
make a national statement of signifi-
cance and he approached it with the ut-
most idealism. I believe I am correct in
saying that the guitar was an intrusion,
suggested by one committee member
as a concession to popular taste; it just
didn't work out as all concerned parties
hoped. In fact it is evident from the
works produced since this episode that
the commission may have arrived too
late in terms of the artist's develop-
ment. He was already moving into an
anti-rhetorical phase in which the
Marley statue has no place.

To speak briefly of the work of the
eighties, which is too much in the nature
of 'work in progress' to be seen in per-
spective and assessed definitively, it is
necessary to take note of the choice of
media. For one thing Gonzalez has
developed the graphic side of his talent,
producing a large number of drawings
and watercolours. In the recent series
of charcoal drawings, glimpsed along
with watercolours in the 1984 national
show and more extensively exposed
along with carvings at the major one
man show at the Mutual Life Gallery
in 1986,11 Gonzalez has turned to draw-
ing as a means of illustrating a coherent
synthesis of mythologies including
the biblical old testament -which com-
bine to express amoralistic/pantheistic
views of human life. The titles may give
some key to his preoccupations: Adam
and Eve; The Sage (reminiscent of
Ogotemmeli), Love Potion; Neptunian
Sage; Message; Earth's Reality, Rock-
scape (composed of metamorphosed ani-
mal and human forms); In their uncom-
promising contours and energetic, al-
most aggressive plasticity these are at-
tractive works apart from the interest
provided by the concepts behind them.
I find the watercolours far less success-
ful. Here the main interest seems to be
in the heads, and the colour washes
contribute only a vague emotional titila-

The Sage: Beaten copper relief. Collection: Bank of Jamaica.
tion, not an enhancement of formal
values . . unlike the oil paintings
where, to me, the colour functions as a
positive element.
Of course Gonzalez has always been
a strong craftsman, well known for his
more or less idealised self portraits (one
of which, from the Edna Manley col-
lection, is illustrated here). The cata-
logue for the National Gallery "Self and
Each Other" show of 1977 reproduces a
drawing titled Night Spirit in which the
elf locks, huge eyes and somewhat petu-
lant expression around the mouth trans-
form the artist into a sort of John the
Baptist of the wee folk. In all serious-
ness, though, Gonzalez is probably tne
most interesting draughtsman Jamaica
has produced, certainly the most spirit-
ed. It seems as if the more abstract his
sculptures have become the more he has
felt a need for this other, graphic outlet.
One feature which the drawings share
with Gonzalez's recent sculptures is the
extensive use of organic metamorphosis
not merely as an idea but as an intrinsic
part of his vision. A brilliant example of
this is to be found in the copper relief
titled Nirvana shown at the Mutual.
Here ripples of beard and moustache
become tendrils or roots, in turn animat-
ing the 'negative' areas between so that
they come alive as feminine contours.
This transformation of human features
to transcend the limitations of the flesh
is not entirely new in Gonzalez's oeuvre.
In quite a different mood, when moti-
vated by social concern rather than by
mysticism, he showed how intelligent-
ly even the intransigent medium of
welded steel could be used. In an early
seventies head titled Prisoner in the
Bank of Jamaica collection striations
under the cheek bone subtly suggest pri-
son bars an effect reinforced by the
nullification of the eyes. The result is an

Column. Mahogany.
Collection: The artist.




rL 4--,n -r" PIE U t

4` -



expose' of hopelessness, the antithesis of
the Repole collection Rasta, which was
executed around the same time.
In the eighties, Gonzalez has 're-
discovered' wood. The sensitivity or
sensibility with which he treats the grain
of mahogany in the recent series of
Runaway Bay carvings indicates a new
phase of inner harmony with nature in
his present rural environment. Gentle
passages of movement round the form
-- as compared with the rhythmic move-
ment across the plane in the late seven-
ties mahogany carving titled Spirit of
Change 12 characterise such recent
works as Angel of Images,13 Dance of
Life, The Unknown Sage and Spiritual
Icon. In some of these, notably Twin
Souls, there is a sense of romantic,
misty incompleteness which contrasts
with the monumental solidity and finish
of works such as Moon Face and Spirit
of Fertility. In the latter, the softly
rounded forms are elegantly comple-
mented by crisp half-moons defining
the eyelids of one head and the profile
of the other. In a large mahogany piece
simply titled Column (1985-6) Gon-
zalez has set out to adumbrate a com-
plete cosmology, or cosmogony, in-
corporating male and female heads at
the base and spiraling round the trunk
-heads of the spirits of wisdom, of life,
and of frustration, as well as a dove of
peace brooding over a symbolic egg, or

A beautiful example of his more ab-
stract symbolic works is a relief (dated
1980) carved in mahogany and titled
Son of Man. This took my breath away
when I saw it in the Repole collection.
In retrospect it finds its bearings not
among recent wood carvings but with
such copper reliefs as The Sage and
Medicine Dance.
The unquestionable masterpiece of
the 1986 Mutual Life Gallery show was,
in fact, a work in beaten copper, the
Crucifix which provided the centre-
piece in the humanistic section of the
1986 national exhibition.14 Anyone
who has followed me so far in this out-
line will realise that this is a key work in
relation to the 'essential' Gonzalez.

It may be approached from many
points of view, but perhaps the most
pertinent issue is the evolution of the
artist's image of Christ. Gonzalez has
given us here a Christ on the cross who,
with hooded eyes, seems lost in the ex-
perience of His own passion, or per-
haps in some mystic realm beyond the
reach of common humanity. This is,

nevertheless a very human Christ, near-
er to the early Olympic collection ver-
sion than to the St. Jude's icon. The
Jesus of Christianity appears to have
merged with the sage who has haunted
the imagination of Gonzalez since his
discovery of Ogotemmeli. Himself a
man of mixed racial origins black,
white and a dash of Amerindian thrown
in Gonzalez says that although the
black power movement and all it implies
is no longer among his preoccupations,
black consciousness is very much a part
of him. This Christ is not Caucasian, but
he is not entirely African either. There
is something about him that recalls
Michelangelo's portrayal of Joseph, and
of God the Father. He is, in fact, as un-
selfconsciously himself as any Jamaican
father figure the infant Gonzalez may
have seen bending over his crib.


1. See news coverage in Daily Gleaner and
articles by Margaret Morris, Franklin
McKnight and Billy Hall: Sunday
Gleaner 21 May 1983.
2. For aphorisms appearing in this article,
and interesting thoughts about inno-
vation in art, I am indebted to Ozen-
fant, Foundations of Modern Art,
Dover Publications, 1952.
3. For illustrations only, see National
Gallery annual exhibition catalogues
1977, 1978, 1983, 1984, 1986. Also
catalogues for thematic shows "The
Self and Each Other", "The Passion of
Christ" and "Male and Female Created
2:1; 3:3; 10:2, 3,4; No. 42. Arts Jam-
aica 2:1. For background information
and views see catalogues of 1986
Mutual Life show; and "Christopher
Gonzalez" by Pat Lewis in a Jamaican
magazine of the sixties, date and pub-
lication unidentified in the clipping in
the artist's possession; Arts Jamaica
1:3 "Insight: The Devotional Image in
Jamaica". An interview with the Rev.
Philip Hart by Sonia Jones; Smith-
sonian catalogue "Jamaican Art 1922-
62", Introduction by David Boxer;
"Caribbean Art Now"; Commonwealth
Institute catalogue 1986. Biographical
notes by Rosalie Smith McCrea.
4. Vigeland died in 1943 having been
royally supported by the State in re-
turn for bequeathing all his works to
the Norwegian nation. His tourde force
was a sculptural monument incorporat-
ing about 100 figures and titled (I
think) The Gates of Hell. He was over-
shadowed by Munch and is not mention-
ed in the standard histories of European
5. The sexuality of Christ as a recognized
iconographical feature in Renaissance
art was the subject of a celebrated text
by the American art historian Leo
Stainberg. Title of the work, published

in 1983, is The Sexuality of Christ in
Renaissance Art and in Modern Obli-
vion. See Art News; March 1985.
6. See JAMAICA JOURNAL 2:1; 7:4.
In neither photographic illustration is
the work shown to advantage. In the
first instance it was photographed from
an angle which makes the youth, at first
glance, appear headless.
7. See JAMAICA JOURNAL 18: 1 review
of the 1985 annual show.
8. Several of the works referred to are
well illustrated in JAMAICA JOURNAL
7:3 along with the Maxwell speech. A
bronze version (in an edition of four)
was shown in the 1986 Mutual Gallery
9. Arts Jamaica 1:2.
10. The following explanation by the artist
appeared in the Daily Gleaner 14 May
1983: Mr. Gonzalez said: 'Despite the
fact that people looked on Marley as a
superstar, we can't forget that he was a
product of the Rastafarian religion.
Rastas are the only ones who say proud-
ly they are children of God who have
the God within them. I am very much
personally involved in the Christ-like
spirit or the divine in us whether we
call it the Christ self or the "I". The
whole thing of the locks becoming one
with the roots gives the concept of a
man being a part of nature and coming
from the earth', the artist said. 'The
mike itself is also a prophet's staff. I
use it as a symbol of the rod being like
the power of God moving through him
and he moving through the power of
God. It is a complex symbology'. He
pointed to the statue's eyes which he
said were originally open but were later
closed as it would leave more room for
the imagination. The beard was made
purposely to look like berries or fruits
because Marley was supposed to belong
to the sign of Joseph the fruitful
bough. 'The body is naked because
having clothes on that figure would
ruin it. It couldn't flow. You couldn't
have the integration of flesh and locks
if it was so. It all goes back to the
superstar thing. I wanted to give the
feeling of naturalness. A few years go,
Rasta would tell the people how they
were living wrong and they would be
the fiery preacher, the preaching
nomad. '
11. See JAMAICA JOURNAL 17: 1, re-
view of 1984 annual show.
12. See Smithsonian catalogue for illus-
13. See Mutual Life catalogue of Gonzalez
show 1986.
14. Referred to in review of 1986 show,
JAMAICA JOURNAL 20: 1. The 1986
Crucifix has been acquired by the
Hardingham collection.

lar art reviewer, is artist, poet, journalist
and teacher and lives in Browns Town,
St. Ann.

HISTORIC I 1 W il.s? =77
The Rodney Memorial which stands at the northern end of
the Spanish Town Square is reputed to be one of the best
examples of late eighteenth century architecture in the
Western Hemisphere. This elaborate memorial which in-
corporates the public offices on either side of the temple
housing the statue, was considered a fitting tribute to
Rodney who saved Jamaica from a French invasion in his
victory over de Grasse admiral of the French fleet in the
Battle of the Saints, 12 April 1782.
The statue was commissioned in 1783 and arrived in Jamaica
in 1790. Made by John Bacon, one of the foremost English
sculptors of the time, it reflects strong neoclassical influences.
Rodney is represented as a Roman soldier dressed in a short
sleeved tunic with a cloak thrown over an extended right arm
in which a baton is held. In his left hand he holds the hilt of a
sword which rests on an oblong shield carved in bas-relief
with classical motifs..

The eight-foot statue stands on a square pedestal. The front
panel bears an inscription which translated reads as follows:




The other three panels feature bas-reliefs of Britannia in
various poses of victory.
The statue is housed in an octagonal temple which features eight circular columns supported by buttresses.
These columns in turn support an entablature comprising a simple architrave and simple frieze. On top of this
sits a balustrade which surrounds a domed roof topped by a colonnaded copula. Keystoned arches span the
openings between the columns. Carved in bas-relief above the centre arch is Rodney's coat of arms.
The two-storey buildings which flank the temple on either side are linked to it by curving colonnaded walk-
ways. The formal and symmetrical layout is typical of neoclassical structures. The two brass cannon in front
of the monument were made in Douay, France in 1748 by Jean Maritz.

The total cost of the memorial including cost of the land was 30,918.


Glimpses of Jamaica's Natural History

(Erythrina corallodendrum L.)

The Duppy Machete (also popularly known as Cutlass Bush and Spanish Machete) occurs at
elevations of approximately 3000' and is common in woodlands and thickets on rough lime-
The Duppy Machete fruits and flowers between December and July. The plant gets its popular
name from its crimson or deep scarlet flower which consists of a standard petal (some 2-22"
long) folded length-wise to form the 'blade' and a bell-shaped calyx as the 'handle'. The fruit
is a pod about 3-5 inches long and the seeds are scarlet with black dots. Pods and seeds
contain a dangerous poison.
The Duppy Machete is also found in Hispaniola and Grand Cayman.

Natural History Division, Institute of Jamaica.

1-111 Ii I 'I - III I I I I I' I TI Iii~i~i

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