Art And Culture of Jamaica


Though a small nation, Jamaica is rich in art and culture with a strong global presence. Nowhere else on earth will one find a culture so dynamic with a rich blend of Jamaican roots that have inhabited the island for ages. Jamaican art and culture is a mixture of many ethnicities that have landed on the island's shores over the past several centuries. The roots of the art and culture of Jamaica was first brought by the Spanish and British settlers and then the West African slaves as did Chinese and Indian immigrants who came to the island as indentured workers.


The official language of Jamaica is English. Though in rural areas Patois or Creole, a combination of English and some African languages, is widely spoken. Even English is heavily spiced with local idioms and Elizabethan usage with its own distinctive rhythmic and a melodic quality. In spite of Patois being understood by most Jamaicans which is also increasingly used in urban areas, it's not the written language of the Jamaican people.


The largest religious group in Jamaica is Christianity. The Anglican Church and the Church of God are the two main church of Jamaica. It's said that almost every musician in Jamaica has learned his or her craft in the Christian churches of Jamaica. Besides Christianity other religions existing in Jamaica are the Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Bahai's and the Rastafarians. The Rastafari came into prominence in the 1930s and is the most prominent non-Christian religion on the island. The Jewish synagogues in Jamaica also date back to the 17th century


Jamaica is the home of many famous literary personalities. Nobel laureate Derek Walcott attended his college in Jamaica. Other well-known writers from this island include Claude McKay and Louis Simpson. Write ups and plays are generally written in Jamaican English or Patois. Louise Bennett, Andrew Salkey and Michael Smith contributed in writings works in Patois. Thought the use of Patois severely limits the potential audience for the otherwise universal Jamaican message, for a world wide audience English is preferred. The famous James Bond novels were written in Jamaica by Ian Fleming.


Music plays a very important role in Jamaica's art and culture. Through the emergence of 'Reggae' Jamaica's music has achieved world recognition. Reggae emerged from traditional Jamaican music with African and Black American roots. Christian music and the related reggae rhythms are also quite famous in Jamaica. The Rastafari cults are recognized all over the world for playing particularly syncopated style that arose from earlier ska rhythms. World renowned reggae musician Bob Marley born in Jamaica was a well-known pop reggae performer in the 1980s. Jamaican folk music is also said to have its origin in West Africa. Other forms of music include Jazz, which is becoming more recognized in Jamaica, Rock Steady, Ska, Mento, Dub and, more recently, Dancehall and Ragga all originated in the island's vibrant popular urban recording industry.


From the colonial times dance has played an important role in the culture of Jamaica. Jamaicans are always known for their willingness to dance to any beat of the music. Early folk dance was usually associated to the Christian religious celebrations or holidays. Jamaican dance is a unique mixture of the styles of the Europeans and Africans. Almost thirty different forms of Jamaican dance sequence have been identified. Some of the local dances are the 'Jonkonnu', 'Bruckins', 'Etu', 'Quadrille' and the 'Maypole'. With these dance theater is also growing in popularity.

Theatre and Film:

Jamaica's earliest theater was build in 1682 with several others opening in the 1700s and the 1800s. Performances were carried both by professional touring companies and amateur groups. Classic Shakespearean plays were most often produced during this period. After the abolition of slavery music, humour, and dance were fused together and then performed. Though eventually true Jamaican styles did develop, it took many years to become more prevalent than European works. The 'Pantomime' is a popular theatrical form even today. The film industry in Jamaica is not as widely known; still some very popular Hollywood movies have been filmed in Jamaica like the Cocktail, Cool Runnings, the Blue Lagoon and James Bond film, Live and Let Die.


Jamaican art is noted for its woodwork, furnitures and metalwork through a long history of fine craftsmanship. Dating from the colonial times and home to many excellent furniture factories, the Jamaican 'Georgian' furniture was exported to the other metropolitan countries. The art of Jamaica is also famous for its traditional graphic arts like pottery which includes items of everyday domestic life. The long standing custom of basket and straw mat weaving, embroidery, seashell art, bead making, sewing, and wood carving is also well-known.


The Jamaican cuisine is quite multi-cultural with influences from the Spanish, European, African, Chinese and the East Indian. There 'country' morning meal refer to as 'drinking tea' which includes boiled bananas or roasted breadfruit, sautéed callaloo with 'saal fish' or salted cod, and 'bush' (herbal) or 'chaklit' (chocolate) tea. A mid-afternoon lunch is the main meal of the day for many Afro-Jamaicans. During ceremonial occasions, Rice is omnipresent with curried goat meat and sweet potato. Some religious sects sacrificially slaughtered animals and birds in their meal.


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