Culture: Through the Lens of Reflection: Part 2 of 5
When I think of Jamaica my island home in the sun, I think of long lazy days on white sand beaches, drinking rum punch, listening to calypso and reggae music, surrounded by friends and family. I think of God; because, his great and wondrous work has been indoctrinated into my beliefs from very young. I think of Jamaica’s rich history of pirates, buccaneers, and how our national heroes fought for freedom from slavery. I think of the Island’s national flag, bird, fruit, flower, and the Jamaican Coat of Arms with our motto that reads, “Out of Many One People” which are all sources of pride. My ethnicity, traditions, and beliefs influence my view of culture that shaped me into who I am and what I am.
The Jamaican population is made up of 91% Blacks with Caucasians, Native Americans, and Asians; among others, who make up the remainder of the population. English is the official language; however, Jamaican Creole, known locally as Patwah, is the common language and is a combination of English and other dialects. Patwah is spoken and understood by most Jamaicans but it is not a written language. Even though there are many religious affiliations in Jamaica, most Jamaicans are Christian. The majority of which, 62% are Protestant and 2% Roman Catholic.
Rastafarian is another religious belief worth mentioning because it originated in Jamaica and has strong roots in the Jamaican culture. In a nutshell, Rastafarians believe that they are one of the lost tribes of Israel who were sold into slavery and taken to Babylon and that they must return to Zion, which they hold to be Ethiopia. Obeah, or voodoo, is also a religious practice and is associated with folk magic and sorcery. Its origin dates back to when slaves were taken from a variety of African nations with differing spiritual practices. Obeah men and women in Jamaica today are sought after because some believe they can predict the future and manufacture charms with some level of potency attached to them.
Jamaican culture is rich and full of a myriad of ancestral wisdom, often told through fables such as Brother Anansi or ghost stories. Superstitions are plentiful, and to this day I still hold onto superstitious beliefs, even though I have no reason or fact to support them. Many of my childhood ways of learning and knowledge came from “wise sayings” passed on from generation to generation. One such wise saying is—duppy know who fi frighten. Duppy means a malevolent ghost or spirit. It sometimes amazes me how phrases such as duppy know who fi frighten acks like a compass for me when having to deal with certain situations. Most of my knowledge and interpretation of the Bible came from my father’s perspective in my earlier years. Like many of the other children in my neighborhood, I enjoyed listening to seniors tell stories of growing up on the Island.
Jamaican families are close-knit and provide both economic and emotional support to their members; consequently, the family is the most important group a person can belong. The family is the group with whom a person spends most of their time developing and maintaining relationships. In child-rearing practices, families emphasize maintenance of close bonds to family, responsiveness to family needs and goals, and working on tasks together as a group. My neighborhood was like an extended home outside of my parent’s home. Children learned to dance, sing, and play a plethora of games on the streets and sidewalks after school and church. Some of these games were dandy shandy, here comes doctor Riley, cowboys and Indians, baseball, and track and field. Sundays were special because the neighborhood became much like one large grocery store with fresh produce and vegetables brought in from local and country farms. Most families Sunday dinner was brown rice and peas, chicken, steak or fish with a vegetable and a beverage. These events provided for the formation of deep attachments to family, friends, and community and also built respect for elders and their wisdom.
What does your reflection of culture tell you?
Central Intelligence Agency. (2012). The world factbook. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/jm.html