Fri | Jan 28, 2022

New J’Ouvert for Carnival 2019

Published:Monday | February 18, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Members of RARE, creators of the upcoming Ash J’ouvert (from left) Shaneel Simpson, Jerome McKellar, Candice ‘Needlez’ Davis and Dahvia Wedderburn.
ASH J'ouvert models, Ana Campbell (left) and Christina Gonzales.
Members of RARE, creators of the upcoming Ash J'ouvert (from left) Shaneel Simpson, Jerome McKellar, Candice 'Needlez' Davis and Dahvia Wedderburn.

J’ouvert has always assumed an important role in the carnival season in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Grenada and here in Jamaica. There are currently about three separate local J’Ouvert events, but for 2019, carnival in Jamaica, Real Authentic Revolutionary Events (RARE) has introduced a fourth, called Ash J’ouvert.

According to RARE director Candice Davis, like the name tailored for the group, the plan is to specialise in events that have yet to enter the local calendar. With that said, instead of the rainbow-painted bodies that are customary seen after throwing coloured powder during a midnight masquerade, at ASH J’Ouvert, patrons will experience a ‘black out’, essentially activated charcoal powder will replace bright-coloured paint.

“It is the same charcoal powder that is used for teeth whitening, beauty products, and as an ingredient in some food. It is non-toxic. We are not using ashes, but refined powder that is similar in form to black powder paint,” Davis explained.

The word ASH is actually an acronym for ‘all soca heathens’. Mindful that there would be concerns about the use of charcoal, the promotions team has done its research and is able to advertise the event as ‘safe and environmentally-friendly’.

“The team wanted to approach the market with something different, a more authentic idea that Jamaicans have yet to experience, and Jamaica doesn’t have any black J’ouvert. Plus there is always space for a new type of event experience,” she said.

The origin

In some islands, such as Grenada, there is a similar cultural practice, which is seen as cultish, because of the character associated with it known as ‘Jab Jab’ – represented by persons wearing horns or horned helmets, tails and a red tongue – fitting an image of the devil. The traditional mixture used is old oil, tar, molasses, and charcoal dust, and the event is sometimes called ‘Black Jab’. The portrayal of Jab Jab is supposed to conjure feelings of black power and black pride, and the entire parade is the demonstration that power lies in the masses.

However, Davis says that while J’Ouvert adapts certain characteristics of the practise, there is no deep intrinsic meaning.

“If persons are comparing it to Black Jab, that celebration is true to the heritage of the islands that have observed their history but we are not trying to replicate that. Also, there is no attachment to the empowerment of any colour or race, especially when taking our country’s motto ‘Out of Many One People’ into consideration. Our event caters to and is offering every and anyone a great experience.”

The RARE team is currently in dialogue with one of the existing Carnival bands, to hopefully align the new J’Ouvert brand with a band.

“It really enhances the entire carnival experience, and for persons that normally want to get that dirty vibe before getting clean for ‘pretty mas’, the celebration will happen approximately one week before the actual road march,” she said. “We’re looking to attract at least 2,500 patrons, and the interest persons are showing on social media is super strong, even as our strategy has been more direct marketing.”

ASH J’Ouvert is slated for Friday, April 19, at Sabina Park, with the masquerade slated for 3 a.m., taking place along the perimeter of South Camp Road. Local disc jockeys Franco and Lantern, as well as Ryan ‘DJ Mr Panks’ Pankar and Cardo Kanambo of Trinidad’s Nuphoric Sound, are already on board.