Cordell Thompson, local Exuma Historian and Director of the Pompey Center for Studies in Traditional Art, Music, Food and the Unresolved Mysteries, describes the origins and components of the Bahamian Junkanoo festival.
Q: What exactly is Junkanoo?
A: Junkanoo is the colorful, energetic, and breath-taking Bahamian festival that takes place every year on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Starting at 2:00 a.m. and coming to an end only when the sun rises (around 9:00 a.m.), hundreds of people dressed in bright, extravagant costumes parade through the streets playing authentic Bahamian instruments, performing choreographed dance routines, and celebrating their culture. The influence of Junkanoo is seen in all aspects of Bahamian society, in the fine arts, in music and dance, and particularly the personality and attitudes of the Bahamian people who understand the necessity for taking time out to celebrate life.
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Q: When and how did it start?
A: Around the 16th or 17th century, Bahamian slaves were given several days off around Christmas time, during which they would celebrate by spending time with their families. In their three days of freedom, they would dance, play music, and create costumes as a way to enjoy the holiday. Even after slavery was abolished, this tradition continued in the Bahamas and eventually transformed into the spectacular festival it is today.
Q: Where does Junkanoo take place?
A: Junkanoo has its roots in harvest festivals in the African countries of Ghana and Nigeria. Most Africans who came to the Americas came from these two countries and Junkanoo is celebrated in some shape or form from the Southern United States to as far south as Belize in Central America.… Read More