Chapters of Jamaican history
Celebrating Jamaica's history through its culture and tradition today we showcases a symbol from the revelry of Jonkunoo.
The Cow Head is among a plethora of possible characters such as Pitchy-Patchy, Devil, Warwick, Belly Woman, and Horse-Head that performed in Christmas Jonkunoo parades once familiar throughout Jamaica.
The first known mention of the tradition locally in 1725 stated that they (the enslaved) very often tied cows' tails to their rumps ... and dressed up in grotesque habits and a pair of ox horns on their head. These described a masquerade tradition still performed in the Sahel region, West Africa.
However, Jonkunoo is deeply connected with Myal possession, representing a particular rite of spirit and ancestral veneration.
Did you know?
Traditionally, all the Jonkunoo characters were played by men only.
- Information compiled by Sharifa Balfour, assistant curator, National Museum of Jamaica