The History of Junkanoo & Costumes

It’s a Bahamian Ting’ 

The originator of Junkanoo: John Canoe, West African Slave



Junkanoo is a Bahamian Cultural event that includes music, dance and a celebration of freedom, that occurs during the morning of Boxing Day and New Year’s. It is believed that Junkanoo originated from ‘John Canoe a West African slave who was an African tribal chief who demanded the right to celebrate a tradition with his people after being brought to the New World as a slave. Junkanoo began in the late 16th and 17th century. Junkanoo was held during the Christmas time when Bahamians slaves were given three days off where they used those days to celebrate with their families. Junkanoo was an ongoing festival during the time of slavery. After the abolition of slavery Junkanoo nearly vanished. However, many islanders then decided that they would bring it back as a tradition.



Costumes in the 1930s made from sponge

In the early Junkanoo days, the slaves in the Bahamas made their ensembles from any material which they could discover, for example, bushes, leaves, stones, containers and paper. As time went by, Junkanoo the costumes were made of sponge. This was the time when the sponging industry was a big business within the Bahamas. Music was provided by those who went to the Junkanoo Parade, who blew their horns and beat the drums covered in goat skin.