By: Kayla and Stephana Rolle
Focus: In this blog post, we will be focusing on how Junkanoo is received by the general public in Grand Bahama. Is this traditional event still appreciated and accepted for its cultural background; or has it become a flashy, superficial costume show only focused on its physical features? We will explore this question some more and take a look at two different approaches.
Fig 2: Thomas (left) and Leah LaChanna Curry (right) the leaders of the Platinum Knights are pictured during the 2017 New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade on Monday evening. (Freeport News).
The Loss of Cultural Acceptance and The American Diaspora’s Impact
By: Kayla Rolle
Blasting horns in the cold winter air! Little kids dancing with light up toys to the beat of the drum! Sizzling conch fritters in the bubbling pot of oil. Four for a dollar. A typical Junkanoo night. The word Junkanoo isn’t foreign to us Grand Bahamians and Bahamians in general. This word has become engraved into our Bahamian repertoire and has become synonymous to the word Bahamas. For decades this event has been a major part of our culture and has been influential in the formation of our cultural identity. When we think of Junkanoo, we hear the pulsating drum thumping through our veins, we see the decorative costumes lining the streets and we think of the loud yet oddly satisfying clashing of instruments. Simply put when we think of this event, we are smacked with these visual and auditory aspects which we oh so love and appreciate. But do we truly understand Junkanoo beyond the physicality of things? Let’s look at this topic from the Government’s approach. This sector of our country appears to be on board with the whole idea of Junkanoo being apart of our cultural heritage. “Annually, $1,000,000.00 plus is spent on Junkanoo festivals and parades held throughout The Bahamas…” (Freeport News). Through these financial contributions, one can assume that the government more than appreciates Junkanoo. But think about this question for a moment: If the government truly appreciate Junkanoo for what it is, why is there a need to implement Junkanoo Carnival? Still confused? Let me clarify. If you did not know, Carnival is not a part of the Bahamas’ background. This foreign event means nothing to us Bahamians culturally nor traditionally. However, the Government finds it fitting to combine this with our regular Junkanoo. The mixing of these two cultures not only dilutes the true meaning of Junkanoo to us Bahamians, but it mixes cultural components which only makes the meaning of Junkanoo confusing and hard to understand. We all know it is hard to accept and appreciate something you don’t understand. Yet this group continues to plead for us Grand Bahamians, especially the youth, to start appreciating Junkanoo whilst blurring the line between two cultures. It’s a subtle case of the blind leading the blind. So from this one point- of – view I’ll ask again; Is Junkanoo truly appreciated and accepted for what it is culturally?
Let’s take a look now at America’s influence. Emphasis is put on the U.S. because of its proximity to the Bahamas and it’s impact. If I ask any Bahamian millennium how familiar are the names Kirkland Bodie, D Mac or Elon Moxey, it’s most likely we’d hear the chirping of crickets. But at the opposite end, if I mention the names Beyonce, Nicki Minaj or Kanye West, familiarity kicks in. Everyone knows who I’m talking about. This is a trivial example but its very telling of how much we know about our culture. Next, ask any young Bahamian what is their favorite song. Realistically speaking, it’s most likely not a Bahamian song and nine times out of ten it’s American based. The American Diaspora has a lot to do with why Grand Bahamians, especially the youth, don’t really appreciate ‘Junkanoo culture’. This is not to make the U.S. a scapegoat to our ungratefulness and ignorance for our culture and this festival, but to make us aware of America’s heavy influence on our small islands. It’s obvious; from the exaggerated American twang we try to use, to our clothing, to the multimedia; American culture is beginning to successfully suppress our Bahamian culture. There has been an overexposure to American celebrity culture. (Thompson 33) We would rather listen to a hip-hop song, than listen to rake-n-scrape or to Junkanoo music. We will search for a different culture’s song before our own. This is a clear representation of us as Bahamians not fully accepting our culture and its components. If we appreciate another country’s culture more than our own, how then can we begin to truly appreciate ours?
Youth’s Interest and Acceptance of Junkanoo
By: Stephana Rolle
In contrast to the above post, I feel Junkanoo has not lost its cultural appreciation and acceptance. Let’s look at Junior Junkanoo for example. It is a significant festival celebrated in Grand Bahama that aids to keep the youths interested in Junkanoo. Students culturally accepts Junior Junkanoo by uniting as one through culture and amusement. Politicians and educators see the significance of students culturally accepting Junkanoo. They will accept the festival if they are interested in it. Junkanoo was added to the school’s curriculum by Alfred Sears a former Minister of Education. This was a great idea of adding into the school’s curriculum because it teaches students about their own culture instead of them learning about another country’s culture. Before it was added, the curriculum’s main focus was on Europe’s Mozart. By adding it students then had an opportunity to know that their culture was also exciting and significant just as Europe’s (Pryce, 2002). Adding it to the curriculum was a way of making them interested and accept the festival for what it was and what it had to offer. When it was added students learned more about it. Schools are a training ground for children that helps them to comprehend and learn life skills. By adding Junkanoo in the school’s curriculum there can be a surety that children will live on the legacy of Junkanoo in the future. Future generations will be interested in Junkanoo by what today’s generation teaches them about it.
Additionally, Minister Lanisha Rolle emphasized he significance Junior Junkanoo has on the school’s curriculum. Minister Rolle encouraged young Grand Bahamians along with parents and teachers to support Junkanoo. She told them the importance of Junior Junkanoo by saying, “It enhances national pride, encourages self-esteem, it helps development and improvement of the children’s artistic skills.” (Cooper 2). By adhering to the significance of Junior Junkanoo the youths will participate and gain interest. By listening to what Minister Rolle said the youths will appreciate Junior Junkanoo as a festival that showcases the Bahamian culture with its amusement. Furthermore, the students’ interest is clearly visible by the way they are excited when it’s time to perform in the cultural event. To accept or do something you have to be interested in it. Their interest of the festival allows them to culturally accept it. Junior Junkanoo is an exciting parade. At these parades, young Grand Bahamians go out to show their cultural pride through participation. At Junior Junkanoo, students parade the streets on downtown Freeport, while people stand on the sidewalks watching the children perform. The students obtain opportunities to play instruments, dress in colorful costumes and dance. Furthermore, as many schools participate in Junkanoo, you can see the youth’s acceptance. When they go to perform, they vigorously put their all into the parades which, shows their cultural acceptance.
For additional information, you can go:
Cooper, Abria. “Minister Rolle emphasizes the significance of Junkanoo.” The Freeport News, 12 Oct. 2018, p. 2.
“Johnson: Ministry Focusing on Future of Junkanoo From Youth Development to Rebranding”. The Freeport News, 4 Jan. 2018. http://thefreeportnews.com/news/johnson-ministry-focusing-on-future-of-junkanoo-from-youth-development-to-rebranding/
Pryce, Vinette K. “Bahamas to Add Junkanoo to School Curriculum.” New York Amsterdam News, vol. 93, no. 32, 8 Aug. 2002, p. 14, EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=b7h&AN=7172096&site=ehost-live.
Thompson, Krista A. “Youth Culture, Diasporic Aesthetics, and the Art of Being Seen in the Bahamas.” African Arts, vol. 44, no. 1, 2011, pp. 26–39. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41330704.