Knowing Jamaica

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Culture & History - Culture

Using the sport of boxing as an anology, a country the size of Jamaica could justifiably be called a “welter weight”, but when it comes to culture, we could be considered to be a "heavyweight". It is completely true to say that, “we punch far above our global weight!” Think about it … Jamaican culture has permeated the cultures of many larger nations. Think reggae music … think jerk cooking … yes, "we likkle, but we tallawah"!

We are a vibrant set of people, with a strong sense of national identity and pride. We are assertive in the way in which we express ourselves; and quick to unite for national sporting events. You will be aware of our presence, whichever part of the world we reside. We have an indefatigable belief that we can excel at anything to which we put our minds.

We have provided key aspects of our culture below:

Reggae Music

Jamaica is where Reggae Music was "born". We are known all over the world for that authentic thumping rhythm and bass which makes you want to move your feet. Thanks to the legacy left by our most famous reggae icon, the late Bob Marley. He was our first “reggae ambassador” to take the music from its "birthplace", in Trench Town, to an international audience. The world has come to treasure a musical form that is often imitated.

Sports

Jamaica has a rich heritage in international athletics. From as far back as the 1940s, Jamaica was creating history at the Olympic games. Our annual Inter-Secondary Schools Boys and Girls track and field athletics Championships (affectionately referred to as "Champs") is the largest of its kind in the world. It is held during the third week of March and has proved to be an excellent "training ground" for many of our Olympians. We have a strong sprinting tradition, and it is no exaggeration to say that we “produce" the best sprinters in the world. The evidence is there for all to see, and no one can dispute that fact. Sprinting is in our “DNA”.

Food

We have a varied palate. Jamaican cuisine is a combination of flavours from Africa, Europe, Asia and the indigenous Taino Indians, which have come together to create a distinct culinary delight. Jerk cooking is a particular favourite, illustrated by the numerous Jerk Festivals held during the summer. Chief among them, is the annual Portland Jerk Festival, held over the first weekend in July. It is important to note that there is a difference between the

Religion

Religion is fundamental to Jamaican way of life, illustrated by the many references to Biblical events in everyday speech. Starting an official meeting with a prayer is common. The island has the highest number of churches per capita in the world and more than 100 different Christian denominations. Most Jamaicans are Christians; the largest denominations are the Seventh Day Adventists, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Moravians and Roman Catholics. (Source). There is also the religion of Rastafarianism. Christmas and the onset of New Year's day are typically observed by various denominations with the singing of Christmas carols, Communion services, candlelight ceremonies, concerts and all-night prayer meetings.

Hospitality

Many people will vouch that hospitality runs through our veins. We are incredibly caring, friendly and helpful; and it is not unusual for Jamaicans to give of their best for visitors to our homes. This is demonstrated in how we treat visitors to our island and many are touched by the ways our people show their love and concern – through a kind word, a warm smile or an unexpected phone call.

Language

“Wha’ gwaan Star – yuh cool?” Have no fear – this is a pleasant greeting in Jamaican Creole, or Patois (pronounced patwah). This is a predominantly spoken language, but with a body of academic and social research to substantiate it as a language. Patois contains words from several African and European languages and even contains some Taino words. Visit any public space in Jamaica, and you are bound to hear the lilting musical language of Jamaica.

Dance Forms

Dance has always been a part of Jamaican society. Even the Taino placed great emphasis on dancing, especially in sending their loved one into the next world. And since the days of colonization, the combination of European and African dance patterns gave rise to many of our traditional dances, such as John Canoe and Maypole. Nowadays, dancing is a part of our daily lives – we dance for worship, formal celebrations, cultural celebrations, social gatherings and more. Bruckins, Ska and today’s dancehall moves all have elements which can be traced back to our European and African ancestry. And we continue to create new moves! The National Dance Theatre Company and the Edna Manley School of Dance are two national institutions which keep Jamaica’s dance tradition alive.

Art Forms

Jamaican art forms are a blend of art and life. It’s like a living artistic piece depicting our motto, “Out of many one people.” Taino art is still accessible through carvings and rock art, particularly at their burial sites. Europe and America lent us classic and abstract forms while technique and colour were heavily influenced by Africa. No wonder our paintings, sculpture and pottery are among the best in the Caribbean.