The Creative Dimensions of Costumes in Relation to “Seed Funding” and ” Evolutionary Change”

The Creative Dimensions of Junkanoo In Relation To Costumes And Seed Funding

Mevanda Green, Avay- Evans King, Natalie Charles, Denzil Hepburn

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, the Hon. Lanisha Rolle, pictured centre, along with Director of Culture, Rowena Poitier Sutherland (fourth from left) and Cultural Officer in Grand Bahama, Monique Leary (third from right), and some of the Junkanoo leaders in Grand Bahama who received their seed funding following a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in Grand Bahama, on Friday, September 28, 2018. (BIS Photo/Lisa Davis)

Junkanoo has always been an important element in our society, it is considered the heart of every Bahamian.  In order to keep this tradition alive, it must be supported by higher officials.  Year after year the Government goes to great lengths to help revitalize and further expand Junkanoo in Grand Bahama.  In a recent article released by the official Bahamas Government website, which addressed that initial funding for the 2018 Junkanoo parade.  According to Mrs. Lanisha Rolle a total of $648,000 in funding was distributed to several groups in Grand Bahama.  “The Government’s seed funding will assist fourteen groups in Grand Bahama to purchase the necessary materials needed to prepare for the upcoming parade” (Maycock, 2018).  Popular groups such as Kingdom Culture, Swingers, Platinum Knights were among the list.   Costume pieces are an integral part of the Junkanoo experience.  In a brief interview with a member from Kingdom Culture, who explained that costume construction is the most rigorous, time consuming and expensive.  The interviewee indicated that for Junkanoo in groups in Grand Bahama to improve its craft there must be adequate funding.  “Seed funding monies are good help, but with a little more support from the public, the Junkanoo experience in Grand Bahama can be grand”. 

Seed Funding


Introduction To Costumes


       The creative dimensions of Junkanoo costumes in Grand Bahama has changed over the years. The costumes made from the 1930s to present shows great diversity of Bahamian artists. When introducing costumes, it was researched that a man by the name John Canoe (a.k.a Johnny Canoe) an African descendant wore a three feet tall hat and danced on certain festivals such as Christmas. After which , these “past” creations evolved positively. The idea of a Bahamian artist on what was said to be their dream, was made a reality. Though the materials for making John Canoe’s hat and John Robbin’s stilts was unspecified, materials use for the other costumes such as mask and full body costumes were detailed in Archives Exhibition: “Junkanoo” as well as Calvin Danbar, “The Colorful Culture of the Bahamas.” The slaves were said to begin with their faces covered with flour paste (1930s), which eventually changed to wired mask held on a stick, brown paper bags and/or crocus sacks (1940s). However, wearing mask in Junkanoo seem to diminish after the production of full body costumes(1960s).These changes in costume making, shows the development of a creative being. To evolve from sticks and stones, to sponges(fig.1), to rags, to cardboard and crepe paper with plastic jewels(fig.2), the creativity of a Bahamian is well recognized. Moreover, I believe this change in costume designing gave its history more appreciation than before.


Fig.1 Sponge costume made in the 1940s from sponges collected by Bahamian fishermen. This costume was observed to have covered persons from head to toe and became very popular because of the demand for sponge in The Bahamas.
Fig.2 showing butterfly costume 2015 made out of card board and crepe paper with jewel attached

     Junkanoo costumes have been a staple of the culture since its inception. Costumes are a reflection of a person’s artistic view along with what is willing to be sacrificed in order to finish a piece. Each costume piece is made with a specific role in mind such as dancing or instrument player or simply carrying. Costumes in Junkanoo vary in weight to each section of a group. Costumes for dancing are light and made for more free movements, While other costumes are heavier and display more design. All costumes within a group come under a theme which can be figured out by looking at all the different costumes in that group. These themes are decided by the group leaders and are designed by bahamian engineers.

 Below is A preview/ Interview by tourist who went To Junkanoo World and Learned about How a costume is CReated and what to use and what not to use. 



Junkanoo costumes have gone through a huge metamorphosis between the 1930s to present day.

Early on in Junkanoo’s history, sponge based costumes were utilized during parades. The

costumes then evolved to plain, everyday items such as cloth, newspaper, stones and shrubbery.

However, in contrast, the magnificent contemporary costumes of today are tastefully and

skillfully crafted out of items such as wire, glue, contact cement, cardboard, and crepe paper to

create beautifully colored, eye catching pieces that vary in sizes. Items such as styrofoam is also

used for more of a three dimensional effect for the larger costumes such as the banners that lead

the parade. In addition, flashy colored accessories such as beads, feathers, and glittery stones are

also used to compound the mesmerizing designs and crafting that goes into creating the costumes

of today. As a result, “most of the changes in the culture of Junkanoo have been within the area

of costuming” (Sands).