Jamaican Culture

It would take books and books to discuss the depth and beauty of the Jamaican Culture. Here is a short excerpt, taken from Caribya's website. More can be found on their website as well as others.

Nowhere else on earth will you find a culture as dynamic as the one visitors encounter in Jamaica. Its people are a mixture of the many ethnicities that have landed on the island's shores over the past several centuries. Weathering enslavement and oppression, the Jamaicans are survivors, and their past is full of fascinating stories just waiting to be told.


Cultural Heritage

Whether they are the descendants of the colonists, the enslaved African or recent immigrants from the Middle East, people of all nationalities live and work together in Jamaica. Cultures have been mingling on Jamaica's shores for hundreds of years. And while this mixture inspires pride, it is also the source of Jamaica's characteristically brassy banter that, to an outsider, might seem inappropriate at times. The Taíno who inhabited the island long before European discovery, also left behind a cultural history.

Language

Language is another way, in which Jamaica demonstrates its melded culture. Although Jamaica's official language is English, many of its residents speak a dialect known as "patois". There are even differences between regions in Jamaica. Jamaica's patois is a mixture of Spanish, a number of African languages and dialects, and English.

Traditional Clothing

Traditional wear includes colorful and usually handmade dresses from calico cloth. Calico is generally striped, similar to a plaid. These dresses include tiered skirts, but another important aspect is the head scarf. This scarf is carefully wrapped around the head to keep hair in place. Rastafarian-influenced clothes are of particular interest to tourists and generally include red, green, and gold, which are the colors of the Ethiopian flag. One of the most important aspects of Rastafarian clothing is that it is made from natural fibers. Also important in this attire is the "tam," a hat that covers the dreadlocks.

Traditional Food

Jamaican culture is also richly flavored by its cuisine. The aromatic spices of the Caribbean have allowed the island's kitchens to create one of the most unusual fusions of flavors in the world. Most popular on the menu is jerk, a marinade that can be added to almost anything, but usually meat. The spicy sauce includes many of the island's native ingredients. Seafood is also prevalent on the island, but most truly Jamaican dishes, which intimidate most visitors, include cow foot stew and goat's head soups.

Religion

Spirituality takes many forms in Jamaica, but all are reflected in the local culture. The Guinness Book of World Records determined Jamaica to have the most churches per square mile of any place on the planet. The island hosts many different Christian denominations, including Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Presbyterians. But the religious are not only Christians: Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Bahai's, and Rastafarians all call Jamaica home.

Visual Arts

Jamaicans take pride in their artistic style. Influenced by the island's unique culture as well as European, American, and African art forms, islanders have mastered a style all their own. The nation has produced many famous artists including sculptor and painter Edna Manley, painter Albert Huie and the self-taught artist Kapo.

Crafts

Although equally artistic, local crafts fall out of the visual arts category and into one of their own. On the island, there are many artisans who create goods of local, natural materials and they do so by hand. You can get your own hands on any number of these goods by visiting a local crafts fair where you will find such items as glazed pottery animals, straw hats made of palm leaves, embroidered linens and batik clothing, and shell jewelry. If the Rastafarian culture is of particular interest to you, you'll also be able to find wood carvings that are typically made of red hard woods.

Dance

Of course, Jamaicans are also known for their willingness to dance. Dances found on Jamaica fuse the styles of Europeans and Africans into a unique form. Some of the local dances are the "jonkonnu," a dance practiced by slaves at Christmas time, "bruckins," from the period after emancipation, and the newer "ska." European dances like the maypole and quadrille are performed with "mento" music, while African dances like the "gerreh," "dinki-mini," and "ettu" were turned into commentaries on plantation living. New dances crop up constantly, but these older styles are the basis for new moves. Dance halls are the best places to find new styles, but the traditional dances of Jamaican culture are kept alive by organizations such as the National Dance Theater Company.

Music

Where would dancers be if it weren't for music, the most popular form of Jamaican music is reggae, which has a sound so easy to enjoy that it has gained popularity throughout the world. Many reggae musicians have grown to international fame, most notably Bob Marley, who worked with and influenced many other local musicians before his death in 1981. The popularity of this genre has continued to this day. Dancehall, a variation of reggae, is also growing in popularity.

Reggae may be the most well-known style of music, but there are many more. Jamaican folk music has come from many sources over the years. The most notable influence on many of the sounds found here is Africa, in celebrations of birth, death, and harvesting. However, the different types of music performed now fall into three groups: dance, religious, and work and entertainment.

From painting to music, language to food, the Jamaican people have so much to offer the world. Once you leave, you'll never lose the lasting influence of Jamaica's multifaceted culture.