Patria-Kaye Aarons | Patois Jezas
No one had warned me about the twist on the crucifixion story that was to have been aired on TVJ this Easter. I was expecting the same tale told year after year, using the same movie made before you or I were born.
On Sunday night, I was visiting friends and TVJ was in the background. I was drinking a glass of sorrel when lily-white angel Gabriel said to Mary, mother of Jesus, “Nuh fraid.” My sorrel came back up. You remember back in the 1980s when we used to watch 'kickers'? Those karate movies with the out-of-synch English voiceovers. Well, picture that, except swap out the Asian martial artists for blue-eyed Jesus and his 12 disciples. And swap out the comical English dub for Patois. Real Patois. Not that made-for-Hollywood, sterilised garbage. I mean Jesus said, “Woi.”
After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples saying, “Mi have skin and bone. And duppy nuh have dem deh.” Nothing in this life quite prepares you for hearing Jesus say “duppy”.
The writers kept the word 'circumcised' unchanged in the script. It sparked a robust debate among us in the house as to whether the intended audience knew what circumcision was; and if not, how could it have been Jamaicanised. We settled on a suggestion from T.B.: “Chop the skin offa him teely.” We all laughed.
I laughed a little too hard. In fact, I strongly doubt our collective reaction to the whole film was what the creators expected. And I felt really bad about laughing at the tragic demise of Jesus – betrayed by a best friend, brutally murdered for crimes he didn’t even commit. But when you hear a white man bawl in Patois, that’s some funny stuff.
Some comments on social media were:
“Mi never ready.”
“This Patwa Bible Movie on TVJ has me dying.”
“Jamaican Jesus funny.”
“Today I am proud of my country. Patois Jesus.”
“Jesus chat bad. He be like ‘Pickney git up’.”
Let’s give credit where credit is due. An audio-visual presentation of a Patois Bible story was a far more practical approach to making religion culturally relevant than the printed Patois Bible. At least this we could all hear and understand. I still can’t read a single page in the Patois Bible because speaking Patois, and spelling it and reading it, are completely different animals.
If the intention of the creators was to reach those who couldn’t read or understand biblical English, then this remix served its purpose. Fun and joke aside, it was a depiction true to the events as were told in the Bible, and every Jamaican could understand; literate or not.
Perhaps Patois Jesus is the start of more made-for-TV dubs.
Noah’s Ark in Patois: “Bring two donkey come deh!”
Samson and Delilah: “Dutty Jezebel cut off mi locks.”
The creation: “Adam, one sinake gimme dis fi eat.”
Anyway, why stop at Bible stories? I’d pay good money to see Harry Potter in Patois – or The Sound of Music.
This approach to translating English text to Patois has long served literature teachers well. Shakespearean plays and sonnets have been particularly difficult for many Jamaican students to digest because of the complicated sentence structures and because, frankly, many Jamaican students just don’t speak English. Teachers have turned to Patois translations to bypass the language barrier and get to the heart of thematic presentations and character sketches. And it has worked over the years.
These filmmakers may be on to something. One thing’s for sure: We’ve come a long way. Miss Lou and Maas Ran must be smiling.