Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Keep Jonkunnu parades alive

Published:Wednesday | December 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM


Jamaican Christmas festivities are not only rooted in British culture but the African culture as well. Thus, Jonkunnu parades should continue to be an integral part of our African-Jamaican heritage.

For many years this colourful and exhilarating part of our Jamaican culture was frowned upon and even suppressed. But a significant number of the peasantry of African descent were determined to pass on to their offspring this cultural torch.

As a youngster in Jamaica in the 1940s and '50s, I always looked forward to the first day of August, Emancipation Day, and Christmas time when these celebrations were held. I can still recall the Cow Head and Horse Head masked characters that were central to the parades. The melodious sounds of horns, fifes, and drums will always re-echo in my ears.

It is sad to say that the Jonkunnu celebrations were so revolting to the Jamaican upper and middle classes that many of them feared being caught looking at these performances. They were even afraid to say the word 'Jonkunnu', which carries a resonating African sound. Instead, it was commonly referred to as 'John Canoe', which has a more Anglo-Saxon ring.

In spite of some form of negativism, it is indeed heart-warming and nostalgic that Jonkunnu parades will continue to survive.


Toronto, Canada