Jumbies' Playing Ground : Old World Influences on Afro-Creole Masquerades in the Eastern Caribbean
During the masquerades common during carnival time, jumbies (ghosts or ancestral spirits) are set free to roam the streets of Caribbean nations, turning the world topsy-turvy. Modern carnivals, which evolved from earlier ritual celebrations featuring disguised performers, are important cultural andeconomic events throughout the Caribbean, a direct link to a multilayered history.
This work explores the evolutionary connections in function, garb, and behavior between Afro-Creole masquerades and precursors from West Africa, the British Isles, and Western Europe. Robert Wyndham Nicholls utilizes a concept of play derived from Africa to describe a range of lighthearted and ritualistic activities. Along with Old World seeds, he studies the evolution of Afro- Creole prototypes that emerged in the Eastern Caribbean--bush masquerades, stilt dancers, animal disguises, she-males, female masquerades, and carnival clowns.
Masquerades enact social, political, and spiritual roles within recurring festivals, initiations, wakes, skimmingtons, and weddings. The author explores performance in terms of abstraction in costume-disguise and the aesthetics of music, songs, drum rhythms, dance, and licentiousness. He reveals masquerades as transformative agent, ancestral endorser, behavior manager, informal educator, and luck conferrer.