Jonkonnu parades

Jonkonnu parades

Jonkonnu, Junkanoo Jonkanoo, Jankunu, John Canoe or Johnkankus is a musical street masquerade, believed to be of West African origin, which occurs in many towns across the Caribbean every December 26 and New Year's Day. The largest parade, Junkanoo, happens in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.


The etymology is disputed, but the celebration may have been named for a West African chieftain or shaman among the Papaws or Popos tribes of West Africa in the early 1700's. Recorded names have included "King John Conny", "Prince Jean Konnu" and "dzon'ku nu" (an African sorcerer persona plus "nu" meaning "man"). Brought to the Americas in the slave trade the tradition survived during the slave off days of Christmas night and New Years.The practice bears great resemblance to Pre-Christian European animist or "mumming" traditions that survived into the 19th century as Christmas traditions. A notable survivor being the Celtic Wren day. Both the Jonkonnu traditions and the Mummer's involved covering the face in soot or ash, dressing in fanciful animal like garments such as the Cow Head and the Hobby Horse, and parading the streets with music before dawn on December 26th. The soot or ash has since been interpreted by many as representing race and has also been frowned upon in some cultures.

Junkanoo in the Bahamas

The Junkanoo street parade, occurs in many towns across The Bahamas every December 26 and New Year's Day. The largest Junkanoo parade happens in Nassau, the capital.

December 26th, Junkanoo groups "rush" from midnight until shortly after dawn, to the music of cowbells, in costumes made from cardboard covered in tiny shreds of colourful crepe paper, competing for cash prizes.

Major musical groups involved in the Nassau Junkanoo have included The Saxons, The Valley Boys, The Roots, One Family and as of late the Prodigal Sons. Groups of the past included the Vikings and Music Makers.

A Junkanoo parade is featured in sequences of the James Bond film "Thunderball" that occur in Nassau. The celebration was staged specifically for the movie since it was filmed at the wrong time of year, but local residents were enthusiastic, creating elaborate floats and costumes and involving hundreds of people. The parade was also featured in "After the Sunset" and "Jaws The Revenge".

Junkanoo is also a fruit-flavored soda produced by PepsiCo and is only available in The Bahamas, and also a modernized style of music sung by Bahamian band Baha Men.

Jankunu (or Wanaragua) in Belize

In Belize, Jankunu is a satirical dance where individuals dress like colonial slave masters and dance off beat to a fast tempo drum 4/4 beat. Because of a thin mustache and black hair, the mask of what is most likely Spaniard is worn. The dance is associated with Garifuna culture, however Belizean kriol peoples, and East Indians participate in the practice.

Jonkonnu in Jamaica

Jonkonnu, or Jonkanoo (John Canoe) is parade that links music, dance, symbols andmime. It is a Jamaican traditional dance form of African descent.Typically Jamaican’s would parade in the streets and enact mime-styleplays. This folk form has gone through many stages off development untiltoday when it is rarely performed on the island. In the early stages therewas the introduction and adaptation of the celebratory parade, then in the1770’s the European influence developed (set girls); after emancipationthe British influence was more obvious. Today, Jonkonnu is only seen atcultural fairs and in very rural parts of the island.

The Jonkonnu festival is secular in nature and used to be performed atChristmas. It was the festive opportunity afforded to the slaves by the
planter class, Christmas was one of the few times that slaves wererelieved of their duties.

The Characters :Core participants;Pitchy patchy,The cowhead,The horsehead,The devil,

Other participantsThe King,The Queen,The police,
Belly woman,
French set girls

The characters parade through the streets in very elaborate costumes; theyare attired costumed with head dresses, masks, pitch forks (devil), batons(police), fans (set girls) and any other paraphernalia that is necessaryto complete the character.

There basic jonkonnu steps that are done and each character has asignature movement. E.g

Pitchy Patchy – turns, cartwheels, large movements in circular patterns.

Belly woman - moves belly in time with the music

John Canoe in North Carolina

The practice was once common in coastal North Carolina, where it was called John Canoe, John Koonah, or John Kooner.It may have influenced the Gulf Coast Mardis Gras.

Historian Stephen Nissenbaum describes the ritual as it was performed in 19th-century North Carolina:

Nissenbaum likened john canoe to the wassailing tradition of medieval Britain, seeing in both a ritualized inversion of the established social hierarchy that provides, simultaneously, a temporary suspension and powerful reaffirmation of that hierarchy. Wassailing performed this inversion along the axis of social class, whereas the 19th-century American version of John Canoe performed it along the axis of race. Both John Canoe and Wassailing bear strong resemblance to the social inversion rituals that marked the ancient Roman celebration of Saturnalia.

"John Canoe" is also the name of a track recorded by the LeBeha drummers of Belize, who perform traditional Garifuna music.


*1984 - "Caribbean Crucible". From "Repercussions: A Celebration of African-American Music" series, program 6. Directed by Dennis Marks and Geoffrey Haydon.
*1990 - "Before Reggae Hit the Town". Directed by Mark Gorney.

ee also

*junkanoo festival of the Bahamas
*jonkanoo festival of Jamaica
*Boxing Day
*Mummers parade
*Mardis Gras
*Wren day


* Nissenbaum, Stephen. "The Battle for Christmas". New York: Vintage Books, 1997.
* [ Origins of jonkanoo]


External links

* 360-degree virtual reality panoramic photograph above the street during Nassau's Junkanoo on New Years Day, 2007]

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