Trinidad and Tobago: Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago and the Carnival Institute and Regional Carnival-CIRC shared a ‘Thursday Reads’ on its social media platform. While sharing an update, the institute noted, “It’s another #ThursdayReads, and today, we bring you some insight into a popular street masquerade outside of carnival, found across the Caribbean: Jonkonnu; more specifically, the Jamaican Jonkonnu.”
According to the Facebook post by the Carnival Institute and Regional Carnival, here’s an excerpt from the chapter “Jonkonnu and Other Christmas Masquerades” taken from the book “Caribbean Festival Arts” by authors John W Nunley and Judith Bettelheim that explains the masquerader: Jonkonnu is a Jamaican street festival characterized by an entourage of wire screen masked and costumed male dancers, performing mimed variations on an established repertoire of dance steps and accompanied by small musical corps. They sometimes perform at Christmas, but more often on important state occasions.
It further stated that since at least the start of the eighteenth century in Jamaica, masked and costumed performers have paraded the streets during the Christmas season and have given performances, originally before Great Houses and subsequently before the residences or offices of people important in the community.
It informed, “Variations of this festival occur in many British-influenced Caribbean nations, including Belize, St Kitts-Nevis, Guyana, and Bermuda in the South Atlantic. In no two places are the festivals exactly the same. In Belize, the custom seems to have a direct Jamaican connection, while contemporary Bahamian Junkanoo shares only a nomenclature with the Jamaican practice.”
“In Jamaica today, Jonkonnu consists of all-male entourages who are either Roots Jonkonnu maskers or members of Fancy Dress bands. The Roots masquerades include such characters as Cowhead, Horsehead, Pitchy Patchy, Devil, Warrior, and Amerindian. These bands tend to be located in the eastern region of Jamaica and are strongly Neo-African in style. Fancy Dress bands mainly come from the western Jamaican parishes of St. Elizabeth, Westmoreland, and Hanover,” it added while concluding the read.