Nation-Building As Cultural Continuance Through Religion And Dance
In Jamaica, Up To The Twenty-First Century"
by Charmaine Patricia Warren
Since the beginning of slavery, Africans in Jamaica were brought together under duress. Many stayed together, creating creolized communities encompassing a variety of ethnic African communities, and generation after generation, nation-building was imperative for Africans in Jamaica who sought to preserve their connection to Africa. Accordingly, Maroons fought against slavery and formed communities of their own, and Kumina groups grew as the Kongo/Bongo Nation banded together. Both Rastafari, which began in the 1930s, and dancehall beginning in the 1980s, have become ever-challenging factions of Jamaican society. Nonetheless, each group grows and stands as testament to the vestiges of African cultural forms. Kumina, Rastafari and dancehall, for example, represent their own forms of cultural marronage, but Maroons are included as part of this lineage because they set the pace for marronage as a successful form of rebellion in Jamaica.
“The facts of history—and therefore of the culture created by the [Jamaican] people themselves—have served to reaffirm the staying power of dance as part of a society’s ancestral and existential reality.”1 This study aims to identify at least one cultural lineage in Jamaican dance from West and Central Africa to Jamaica. The author proposes here that the Koromantee Dance and Kumina were transplanted to Jamaica along with enslaved Africans as part of their culture. The specific African cultural retentions recognized here are religion, music and dance. Above all, the late Jamaican educator/choreographer/writer Rex Nettleford adds: “… the dance in Jamaica continues to be one of the most effective means of communication, revealing many profound truths about complex social forces operative in a society grouping toward both material and spiritual betterment.” 2 This abstract from the larger work, will introduce “K”ongo or “C”ongo, the Bakongo people, the Jamaican Bongo/Kongo Nation, and offer a glimpse into further research.
1 Rex Nettleford, Dance Jamaica: Cultural Definition and Artistic Discovery – The National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica 1962 – 1983 (New York: Grove Press, 1985), pp. 18-19.
2 Ibid, p. 19
Charmaine Patricia Warren (Ph.D.) is a performer, curator, historian, writer and the founder/artistic director of "Dance on the Lawn: Montclair's Dance Festival." She is a former faculty member at Hunter College, The Ailey School and the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University Dance Major program, Sarah Lawrence College (Guest), Kean University, and The Joffrey Ballet School's Jazz and Contemporary Trainee Program. She recently became the Producer of DanceAfrica at BAM and is a 2017 Bessie Award Recipient for "Outstanding Performance" as a member of Skeleton Architecture Collective.
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