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Tuesday, 18 January 2011


As the 19th century drew to an end the ruling classes saw a rise in acts of aggression and sexual profanity, in the portrayals of African masqueraders. The period became known as the ‘Jamette Carnivals’.

The word ‘Jamette’ comes from the French word ‘diametre’ and referred to the class of people ‘below the diameter of respectability’ ...the upper classes were distancing themselves from the lower emphasize the immorality...and hence the inferiority of the Africans. ( Liverpool Hollis)

During the 19th century Africans had to exist in deplorable living conditions. These conditions were witnessed in their most extreme form in the barrack yards of the capital. Due to these conditions the barrack yards were the epicentres for crime, prostitution, and other forms of lawlessness. The barrack yards being the homes of Trinidad’s Afro-Trinidadian lower classes were also the bastions of African cultural resistance and identity.

Out of theses barrack yards came some of the most iconic characters and symbols of defiance that Trinidad’s carnival has ever produced. As the century came to an end these characters, and ritual practitioners would directly confront the laws and institutions of the establishment that seemed to exist solely to erase their cultural identity.

From the poverty ridden, crime infested environments of the barrack yards the Jamette emerged. If the stick fighter was the warrior King of the Kalenda, and the Cannes Brulees procession, and the male personification of African defiance, the ‘Jamette’ was the Queen, her very physical presence was the personification of colonial defiance.

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damali said...

very powerful video....and thanks for the knowledge! i've heard the term jamette but i had no idea....

Cliviaalana said...

I love this...its been so long since ive seen anything that reminds me of the artistry that's Trinidad. I admit i've been....disillusioned?? i guess thats the best word for it.
But this was a much needed reminder.



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