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Junkanoo Simplified

I am a born, bred, ga dead, proud Bahamian and, my culture is extremely important to me. One of the greatest expressions of that culture is perhaps Junanoo. For these not familiar with the festival, here is a beginners guide to the annual festival.

Each year, Junkanoo parades are held on Boxing Day (Dec 26) and New Years on the island of New Providence. There are several groups that are categorized in:

A Groups - Large, elaborate groups

B Groups – Smaller groups, with less funding and members

Scrap Groups - Groups that don't have much funding or just do it for the love of Junkanoo. Scrap group costumes are usually made from newspaper, crepe paper....or whatever they feel like to be honest

Many groups prepare for the Junknoo parades all year long, and all costumes are made by hand. Many Junknaooers also pay for their costume supplies out of pocket, and the materials can be costly. ‘Pasting' is cheap but time consuming, and includes pasting hand cut crepe paper to a usually cardboard-based costume. However, ‘tricking' or applying feathers, gems, glitter etc. can get VERY expensive. Many costumes can cost thousands of dollars and can take a very long time to make.

Each group also sticks to a theme that can range anywhere from paying homage to other cultures to pop culture. These themes are kept secret until it is “showtime”.

The Junkanoo groups ‘rush’ and complete on Bay Steet for relatively small cash prizes, but most Bahamians do it for the pride and bragging rights. The parades include the costumes, music (brass instruments, goat skin drums, cow bells and whistles) as well as choreographed dancers and free dancers. The groups usually do three laps (up Bay Street, down Shirley Street and back up Bay Street) and can take up to 12 hours to complete. This is a labor of love for the performers.

Many start the parade with blistered fingers from hot glue gun burns received while making their costumes, and finish the parades with blistered hands and feet from dancing and playing instruments for so many hours.

At the end of the parade, many of these beautiful costumes are stripped of valuable feathers or stones, and discarded as the groups start anew.

Liked this stripped down overview of Junkanoo? Let us know if you want to know more about Junkanoo and other elements of Bahamian culture.

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