Jamaica and Africa share deep cultural ties that survived the slave trade. There are some cultural morals that are passed down that have direct ties to Africa. Enslaved Africans kept their heritage alive by way of dance, food, and spirituality.
There are too many notable Jamaicans of African descent to name. Here is a small sample: George William Gordon, National Hero, George Steibel, the island’s first black millionaire who built Devon House, Sir Alexander Bustamante, the island’s first Prime Minister, Norman Manley, the island’s first premier, Marcus Garvey, black nationalist and National Hero and more contemporarily, Merlene Ottey, Jamaican track and field star, T. P. Lecky, creator of the Jamaica Red Breed of cattle, Cecil Baugh, world-renowned potter, Bob Marley, worldwide musical superstar and the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley, cultural icon.
Their impact, and that of many others, whose contributions to Jamaican life in all aspects Â cultural, artistic, political, economic, scientific Â was borne out of a brutal system forged through an integration of people and place and emerged as a triumph of the human spirit. It is largely thanks to Jamaicans with connections to Africa that Jamaica is what it is today Â an intense land, a place of extremes that is rarely boring or predictable Â an island that is ‘little but tallawah.’
Here Are Fascinating Jamican Customs, food and traditions that originated From Africa.
The official language of Jamaica is English, spoken in proper fashion with a uniquely Jamaican accent.
Many slaves came from different parts of Africa and did not speak the same language. Communication was done through body language and hand gestures. As years passed, a language developed that improved on the plantations and was rooted in the Akan language. We see this strongly in the naming patterns, where kinship and lineage were retained beyond crossing the Atlantic. One of the most recognizable Akan names for a baby boy born on Sunday is Kwesi in Ghana and Quashie in Jamaica; phonetically they sound alike.
The Kromanti language is spoken by the Maroons in Jamaica today, and the linguistic lines to Twi Fante are clear. Other influences include the language of Mendi, Igbo, Efik, Yoruba, Kongo, Kimbundu, Ewe, Mandinka and, possibly Swahili.
INTERESTING FACT: Patois uses many repeated words, such as bo-bo (silly person) and was-was (wasp). Scholars believe this pattern came from West African speech.
- Kumina Dances
Kumina is a Jamaican religious ceremony involving music, dance, and spirit possession, and is a way of celebrating and appeasing ancestors. It is perhaps the tradition most closely rooted in African cultures, the Kumina religious group came originally from the Congo.
Kumina combines Jamaican dances, traditional songs, and rhythmic drumming. it’s very musical in nature and spectacular to watch. Dancers wear their Jamaican dress and perform to hypnotic drumming rhythms and chants in an attempt to catch the spirit. it is believed that the ancestor being called will come down and possess one of the dancers. With its specific dance moves, lively music and colourful dress it is considered by many as a true art form.
Why is Kumina performed? For a variety of reasons. Kumina dances can be used at funerals or wakes, weddings and engagements, or any time good luck is needed (such as when a court case needs to be won, for example). But it is also often performed simply as a form of cultural expression or purely for entertainment, with local dance companies using the traditional Jamaican Kumina dances to create spectacular shows, helping to keep this wonderful tradition alive.
Jamaica’s best known religion is Rastafarianism, which centers around the divinity of the late Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia.
You’ll see many dreadlocked Rastafarians, usually wearing crocheted tams (a type of hat).
Rastafarianism mandates vegetarianism, a strict code of peace and, the best known facet of the religion, the smoking of ganja or marijuana.
Today the Rastas are a small sector of the Jamaican population But because of such Rastas as the late Bob Marley, they are symbolic of Jamaica. Rasta men are easily identified by their dreadlocks, or locks, matted waist-length strands that either flow down their back or are held beneath a knitted cap or tam. Rastafarian women generally wear locks as well, along with African clothing and headwraps.
The Rastas, once discriminated against in Jamaican society, typically band together in communities often located outside the town itself. They are strong believers in the importance of natural surroundings and often live in the hills.
- Ackee and Saltfish
This is Jamaica’s national dish. The fleshy, yellow part of the seed pod from the ackee fruit is cooked with salted cod fish. When cooked, ackee looks similar to scrambled eggs. It is also often eaten for breakfast.It’s rare to find ackee elsewhere.
The fruit is part of the lychee family and was imported from West Africa in the late 1700s