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Published on Jan 28, 2010

Jonkonnu, or Jonkanoo (John Canoe) is parade that links music, dance, symbols and mime. It is a Jamaican traditional dance form of African descent. Typically Jamaicans would parade in the streets and enact mime-style plays. This folk form has gone through many stages of development until today when it is rarely performed on the island. In the early stages there was the introduction and adaptation of the celebratory parade, then in the 1770s the European influence developed (set girls); after emancipation the British influence was more obvious. Today, Jonkonnu is only seen at cultural fairs and in very rural parts of the island.

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

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

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

The characters parade through the streets in very elaborate costumes; they are attired costumed with head dresses, masks, pitchforks (devil), batons (police), fans (set girls) and any other paraphernalia that is necessary to complete the character.

There are basic jonkonnu steps that are done and each character has a signature movement such as:

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

Belly woman - moves belly in time with the music.


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