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Essay About Jamaica Culture

Jamaican culture is the religion, norms, values and lifestyle that defines the people of Jamaica. The culture is mixed, with an ethnically diverse society, stemming from a history of inhabitants beginning with the original Taino people. The Spaniards were the ones who brought slavery to Jamaica, then they were over thrown by the English. Jamaica later gain emancipation on August 1, 1838. on Black slaves became the dominant cultural force as they suffered and resisted the harsh conditions of forced labour. After the abolition of slavery, Chinese and Indian migrants were transported to the island as indentured workers, bringing with them ideas from the Far East. These contributions resulted in a diversity that affected the language, music, dance, religion, and social norms and practices of the Jamaicans.


The official language of the Jamaican people is English (derived from British influence) with a local dialect called Patois (pronounced "patwa") that is spoken by majority of its people. This dialect is a combination of the languages from the different inhabitants in its history. It was developed by the slaves over time in an effort to communicate with each other, especially given that they were from different countries and, for the Africans, also from different tribes.


Main article: Religion in Jamaica

By far, the largest religion in Jamaica is the Christian faith. The Anglican Church, Catholic Church, Methodist Church, Baptists, and the Church of God are present throughout the country. Many old churches have been carefully maintained and/or restored.[1] The Rastafari movement is a derivative of the larger Christian culture, but its origins were influenced by rising consciousness of Africa, and an awareness of political events in that continent. There are also a small number of Jewish synagogues in Jamaica, dating from the 17th century.[citation needed]

Elements of ancient African religions remain, especially in remote areas throughout the island. Some of these practices are described generally as Obeah, Kumina, or Pocomania. Though the congregations are small, they are visited by many Christian and non-Christians seeking an experience they have not found in the churches.[vague][citation needed] It is estimated that as much as 40% of the population secretly seek the services of the African traditional religious healers when confronted with serious problems that conventional medicine cannot remedy.[citation needed][citation needed]

"The Baha'i movement in Jamaica began about 50 years [in 1942] ago when a doctor from Portland, Dr. Malcolm King, brought the teaching from the United States."[2] In 2003, as part of the 60th anniversary celebration of the establishment of Baha'i in Jamaica, the Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Howard Cooke, proclaimed a National Bahá'í Day to be held annually on 25 July.[3] In 2005, the community of about 5000[4] celebrated their activity and presence in Jamaica with the international Bahá'í choir, The Voices of Bahá. The choir performed at Ward Theatre and the University's Chapel, with proceeds earmarked to two Jamaican charities, (one serving families of policemen slain in the line of duty, and the one Denham Town Golden Age Home).[5]

Other religions practised in the country of Jamaica include Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.


Main article: Rastafari movement

Originating in the 1930s,[6] one of the most prominent, internationally known aspects of Jamaica's African-Caribbean culture is the Rastafari movement, particularly those elements that are expressed through reggae music. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Bob Marley became the most high-profile exponent of the Rastafari culture and belief system. His reputation as an innovative musician devoted to his faith[7] has continued to grow since his death, so that by 2004 his greatest hits compilation, Legend, had sold 20 million copies worldwide,[8] making him arguably the world's most famous Jamaican, and certainly the nation's biggest-selling recording artist.

Rastafari itself is a monotheistic belief system, based on teachings found in the Old Testament and the New Testament – particularly the Book of Revelation.[9] However, what distinguishes Rastafari from Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, (which also cite Abrahamic beliefs), is that Rastas believe in the divinity of the Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.

Hailed by Rastas as H.I.M. (His Imperial Majesty), Haile Selassie I is regarded as God himself, the true descendant of Solomon, and the earthly embodiment of Jah (God)[10] – in what believers see as a fulfillment of prophecy regarding the second coming of the Messiah.[11]

Those Rasta beliefs, which are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible (such as the specific name of H.I.M. "Haile Selassie"), are not gathered into a single holy text. Instead, Rasta beliefs are primarily shared through a community of songs, chants, and oral testimonies, as well as in written texts (including websites).[12] The extensive use of song makes Rastafari a particularly musical source of Jamaican culture.

Rasta cultural traditions include wearing their hair in uncut, uncombed strands known as dreadlocks (in adherence to the Nazarite vow[13]), as well as eating unprocessed (natural) foodstuffs which are known as Ital. However, neither tradition is regarded as compulsory – many people who wear dreadlocks are not Rastas and many Rastas do not wear them.

One of the most controversial cultural traditions is Rastas' use of ganja as a sacrament which is smoked to aid in reasoning (contemplation and discussion). Cannabis is a strictly prohibited substance in Jamaica, so its use by Rastas means the movement is in a more-or-less permanent state of tension with police agencies.

In its Jamaican homeland, Rastafari is a minority culture and receives little in the way of official recognition. Jamaica is an overwhelmingly Christian country, so Rasta beliefs and practices – such as the divinity of H.I.M Hailie Selassie – are sometimes regarded as pagan by Christian Jamaicans.[14] (Some Rastas also express hostility towards aspects of Christianity.[15]) Nevertheless, the artistic contributions of the movement, particularly Bob Marley, are widely respected. Marley was awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1981, and there are two official monuments to him.[16]

Rastas can be found in many countries outside Jamaica and among many non-Jamaicans. Because it is not a centrally organised religion, there is no way of knowing how many devotees there are.


Dance has always been important to Jamaica – from colonial times until the present. Early folk rhythms and movements often enhanced Christian religious celebrations, or were associated with Christian holidays. More recently, dances have become associated with the music of Jamaica, particularly dancehall styles.

Dance theatre is also growing in importance. Rex Nettleford, Eddy Thomas, Olive Lewin, and Edna Manley are four Jamaicans whose influences on the arts – music and dance in particular – have been extremely important. Nettleford, Thomas, and Ivy Baxter formed the National Dance Theatre Company in 1962.[17] Other important Jamaicans in dance theatre have included the Tony-Award-winning choreographer Garth Fagan (The Lion King on Broadway).

Dancehall, or reggae, music has inspired a number of dance styles as well. To understand the evolution of popular dance, it helps to understand the musical progression. Ska music, with fast beats, also had fast dances. The slow to rocksteady also developed slower dances, allowing dancers to stay on the floor longer. Reggae is associated with many things, including the Rastafarian movement, but influenced the newer styles.

Dancehall music often creates its own dances based on moves in the lyrics of the songs themselves. Soca music from Trinidad and Tobago is popular with most of the popular artists from Trinidad, but many soca Jamaican artist such as Byron Lee, Fab 5, and Lovindeer are famous but also represent Jamaican music.

Daggering is a form of dance originating from Jamaica. The dance incorporates dry sex,[18] wrestling and other forms of frantic movement.[18][19]

Bruckins is a Jamaican dance performed to celebrate Emancipation Day.


Jamaica's earliest theatre was built in 1682. Several more theatres opened in the 1700s and 1800s, attracting performances by both professional touring companies and amateur groups. But performances weren't limited to official venues. Many took place in houses, stores, court houses, and enclosed outdoor spaces large enough to hold them. During this period, classic plays such as Shakespeare were most often produced. However, the Jewish and French communities became large enough to merit productions aimed at them, too.

After the abolition of slavery, Jamaicans began fusing music, humor, and dance into public theatrical performances. Although it took many years for true Jamaican styles to develop, eventually they became more prevalent than European works. Today's most popular theatrical form in Jamaica, pantomime, began in the 1940s as a fusion of English pantomime with Jamaican folklore. Another popular style, "Roots" (Grassroots) Theatre,[20] evolved in the 1960s and 1970s. These riotous bawdy tales remained crowd favorites in Kingston's open-air theatres.[21]

One artist involved in root plays is Winsome (code name), a Jamaican writer and producer chronicled in Deborah Thomas' book "Modern Blackness". Winsome handled all the publicity for her plays herself, and ended up putting them on in the rural areas surrounding Kingston – the city theaters refused to house her plays because of their controversial nature. In her plays, Winsome explores how sex, money, and power interact everyday for Jamaicans. In 1997, Winsome wrote and produced a root play entitled Ruff Rider, in which family, sexual abuse, love, work, and friendship all intersect. According to author Thomas, author of, "In all of her work, the sympathetic characters are those she portrays as struggling to balance their own pursuit of individual gain with ‘living well together’ with others. As they negotiage the fine lines between egalitarianism and hierarchy, her characters also contribute to the public debate regarding the gendered dimensions of respectability and reputation."[22]

Other notable roots play figures include Ralph Holness, Ginger Knight, Balfour Anderson, Michael Denton, Ian Reid, Paul Beil, Everton Dawkins, Luke Ellington (Lukington), Buddy Pouyat and the late Hyacinth Brown.[23]

Literature and writing[edit]

Further information: Jamaican literature

Derek Walcott, a Nobel prize laureate, born and educated in St. Lucia, attended college in Jamaica. Other significant writers from the island include Claude McKay and Louis Simpson. Plays and works in Jamaican English, or patois, attract special attention. Louise Bennett, Andrew Salkey and Mikey Smith have contributed to this phenomenon by writing works in patois. Ian Fleming wrote his famous James Bond novels while living in Jamaica. Jean Rhys is also well known for her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, which was set in Jamaica. Jamaican authors are always faced with the decision of writing in standard English for a huge worldwide audience, or in the local patois, for a much smaller, but more trendy, audience. Jamaican films with patois sound-tracks such as The Harder They Come require sub-titles for export to general markets. In general, the use of patois severely limits the potential audience for the otherwise universal Jamaican message. Pauline Wills, author of the book, "The Imperils of the Maxfield Terrain," sections written in patios about the garrison community of Maxfield Avenue. She was born in the parish of St Andrew, Jamaica and a past student of Immaculate Conception High School.


Further information: List of Jamaican films

Jamaica's film industry is not widely known, but it is growing. The Harder They Come, Rasta Rockett, Shottas, Third World Cop, Rockers, Countryman, Dancehall Queen & " Real Ghetto Youths" are a few of the best-known Jamaican movies. However, many popular Hollywood movies have also been filmed in Jamaica. A short list includes The Blue Lagoon, Cocktail, Cool Runnings and James Bond films, Dr. No and Live and Let Die.

Jamaica's leading annual film event The Reggae Film Festival takes place each February in Jamaica's capital city, Kingston. Members of Jamaica's film industry gather here to make new links and many new projects have grown from the event.

Jamaica has many talented film makers but there is a great lack of available funds and resources for film makers. Since the creation of the Reggae Film Festival there have been many new films made in Jamaica and the event has given the industry a real boost, this combined with the recent CARICOM European film treaty which enables Jamaican film makers to seek funding in Europe, has opened up a new door for film makers looking to apply for funding and this will hopefully make a real difference to the future of the industry.

Other more recent feature films made in Jamaica are: 'Almost Heaven', 'Roots Time', 'Wah Do Dem', 'Concrete Jungle', 'Redemption Paradise', 'Real Ghetto Youths', and 'Smile Orange'.


Main article: Sport in Jamaica

Woodwork, furniture, and metalwork[edit]

Jamaicans have a long history of fine craftsmanship in wood and metal. Jamaica was home to many excellent furniture factories dating from colonial times, and Jamaican "Georgian" furniture was exported to the metropolitan countries.

Also see


Further reading[edit]

  • Mordecai, Martin and Pamela. Culture and Customs of Jamaica. Greenwood Press. 2001.
  • Hill, Errol. The Jamaican Stage, 1655–1900: Profile of a Colonial Theatre. University of Massachusetts Press. 1992.

External links[edit]

  1. ^"Churches". Kingston, Jamaica: Jamaica National Heritage Trust. 2005. Archived from the original on 8 September 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  2. ^Bridge, Abena (5 July 2000), "Divine rites – Uncovering the faiths", The Jamaican Gleaner 
  3. ^Jamaicans celebrate 4th National Baha'i Day, Bahá'í World News Service, 11 August 2006 
  4. ^"Most Baha'i Nations (2005)". The ARDA (Association of Religion Data Archives). 2005. Retrieved 30 June 2016. 
  5. ^"Voices of Baha to Perform in Kingston" (Press release). Jamaica Information Service. 29 June 2005. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2016. 
  6. ^Dread History by Professor Robert A. Hill (2001), ISBN 0-948390-78-6ISBN 978-0948390784.
  7. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 May 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  8. ^"The Top Earners For 2004". Forbes.com. Retrieved 16 October 2017. 
  9. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 May 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  10. ^Anthony B: Lyrics to 'Conquer All".Archived 25 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  12. ^Earth Culture Roots. Website explaining Rasta beliefs.
  13. ^Numbers 6:1–21 (King James Version)
  14. ^[1][dead link]
  15. ^"Talking Blues - BOB MARLEY". SongLyrics.com. Retrieved 16 October 2017. 
  16. ^"Bob Marley Bibliography". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 30 January 2009. Retrieved 16 October 2017. 
  17. ^National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica.
  18. ^ ab"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 January 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  19. ^"Daggering 101… a Tutorial". Yinnyang.co.uk. Retrieved 16 October 2017. 
  20. ^The Cambridge Guide to African and Caribbean Theatre, Martin Banham and Errol Hill.
  21. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 April 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  22. ^Thomas, Deborah. Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004.
  23. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 July 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2008. 

Develop a 750-word response to the readings and questions on Jamaican culture.

Jamaican Jeopardy

After viewing the Official Visitors Guide to Montego Bay Jamaica, there five specific locations that I like to visit during this global field experience in Jamaica, these include:

  1. Dunn’s River Falls – I recommend we visit Dunn’s River Falls because it sounds like an interesting place to see. We will be able to physically see the waterfalls and the rivers. We will be able to see the nature of beauty in action, which would be an experience of a lifetime.  In addition, I do not believe it costs any money to visit this place so we should definitely visit this place.
  2. Negril Beach – I would to visit Negril Beach because beaches are my favorite places that I like to visit when I travel to another state or country. I just like how the ocean feels and how pure the water can be in certain areas, especially in Jamaica.
  3. Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville – Another place that I would like to visit is Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville. Everyone suggests that this place is a great restaurant in the United States, but I am one to visit. Thus, it would be neat if we could visit this location.
  4. Rose Hall Great House – I am a History/American Studies major and I am interested in the slave trade that happened in Jamaica. The Rose Hall Great House is one of the plantations that I like to tour to get a better understanding of what slavery might have been like in Jamaica. I hope other History majors also want to visit this place with me.
  5. Coral Cliff – Overall, this is the last place that I like to visit. The name of the place sounds amazing and fun. I believe it is where people can jump off a high cliff and into the water. I might want to experience this, but I am still uncertain. In all, I want to see the natural beauty of Jamaica. I believe these suggestions will help our group have an amazing experience in Jamaica.

After reading chapter 5: Social Relationships in Cultural Matters, five observations that I plan to make while visiting Jamaica are:

  1. Dress Etiquette – When reading Chapter 5, it had asked a variety of questions on how one should dress in the home, outside the home, before the day, if one can wear shoes in the house, etc. Thus, I plan to bring this list of dress etiquette questions with me on the trip to see answer some of these questions because they seem very interesting. One question that I think was most significant was “Are there rules about how you should dress for lunch and dinner?” I know that in the United States, it does not matter how you dress during lunch and dinner as long as you have clothes on. However, it could be different if it is a formal lunch or dinner, for example with a business partner. I would suggest wearing clothes that fit the occasion. In all, I like to look through these questions and observe Jamaican’s dress etiquette.
  2. Eating Etiquette – When reading Chapter, there were a variety of questions on how one should eat at the table, if one should wait for others to eat, if it is okay to take a drink to one’s room and more. It is fascinating that there is questions that talk about eating etiquette because in the United States, eating can take place anywhere. I know in my house, I am not allowed to eat in my room because it is harder to clean up the mess. However, my parents do allow me to drink in my room. Thus, I would like to bring this list with me to Jamaica to observe and answer these questions as well. I would like to see if it is similar or different in the United States vs. Jamaica.
  3. Helping Out – In the United States, it is also good to have people help other people out because it shows that one cares and that they are willing to commit to something. However, helping some one out is sometimes rude, for example, with the garbage, and other household duties. Thus, I would like to interview an actual Jamaican student with these questions and find out if people expect to wash their own clothes, to prepare a meal, iron their own clothes, and more.
  4. Self-Identification vs. Group Identification – After doing this activity, I placed my self in the middle of self and group identification, the United States near the self-identification and the Host Country, toward the Group Identification. I chose these areas for specific reasons. I reason why I put myself in the middle because even though I identify myself as independent, I still need dependence from my family. As for the United States, I believe there are many members in society that identified themselves as independent and not dependent on others. I feel that way because independency and freedom is the basis of American culture. In Jamaica, I placed it on the continuum near group identification because I feel that family is valued more in Jamaica. There are a lot of impoverish areas in Jamaica where families are close together to help each other out. In addition, I feel that the communities in the villages are reliant on one another. I hope to view this assumption in Jamaica, if this is not correct, I plan to be open-minded.
  5. Monochronic vs. Polychronic – After doing this activity, I placed the United States and myself in the middle of Monochronic and Polychronic because I feel that although time is limited to some people, there are still some times when people make time to meet the needs of people. For example, I am a college student, but I am still able to make some time to volunteer at a local elementary after school program. As for Jamaica, I feel that they are more towards Polychronic because Jamaicans seem to care for their family members and the needs of these people that they are willing to put more time into it.  Thus, I plan to observe if Jamaicans are most definitely Polychronic.

After reading chapter 6: Adjusting to a New Culture in Cultural Matters, five lessons that I decide to bring to Jamaica are:

  1. Although I will only be in Jamaica for one week, I feel that my experience of another culture can really change within that week. Based on Chapter 6, Section 6.3: The Cycle of Adjustment, I feel that I will be in the initial enthusiasm stage or also known as the honeymoon because I feel that I only will be exposed to “the country and culture for a limited amount of time.” I definitely believe that I will look at Jamaica and surely believe that there is nothing wrong and that the culture is “exotic and quaint.” However, the point of the trip is to be open-minded so I will look at different perspectives and be receptive to the outlook.
  2. Another lesson that I plan to bring to Jamaica is not physically be down if I were to have a cultural shock. I am trying to prepare myself that in different countries, people do different things and I have to respect those dissimilarities. I understood that in college, not everyone does the same things or have the same cultural experiences. Many people came from different high schools or towns where life in that place was not the same as other people’s high schools or towns.
  3. A third lesson that I plan to bring to Jamaica is that I probably will not figure out Jamaican behavior quickly on the first day or the time I am there. Maybe if I spent more time visiting Jamaica, I may understand how the culture works and what cultural mistakes to not make. I am sure that I will make some mistakes in my behavior, but it is about a learning experience that you try to prevent.
  4. A fourth lesson that I plan to bring to Jamaica is to not get upset or nervous if I cannot understand or comprehend certain aspects of Jamaican culture. I feel that it takes a couple of years to understand why certain cultures do specific things and that one must be open to that outlook. Thus, I am willing to ask questions why Jamaicans do the things that they do so I can have a better understanding of their culture.
  5. Lastly, the lesson that I plan to bring to Jamaica is to take everything in and to reflect what I learned in a journal that I would use in Jamaica and for the culminating essay. I believe that if I write everything down, I am able to remember what experiences were different or similar. I will not necessarily adjust to the experience, but place myself in the situation to understand.

As for concerns, I have no more comments. I cannot wait to travel to Jamaica and have the time of my life with my fellow classmates! Jamaica 2012 =) !



Jamaicans.com (1995 – 2012). Jamaican Culture – An Overview (Jamaica) Retrieved from http://www.jamaicans.com/culture/intro/overview-5.shtml.

Jamaica, Land of Wood and Water. Retrieved from http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/jamaica.htm.

Jamaica. (n.d.). U.S. Department of State. Retrieved March 9, 2012, from http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2032.htm

Kwintessential Ltd (2010). Jamaica – Language, Culture, customs, and Etiquette. Retrieved from http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/jamaica.html.

Pawka, Mike (2008). Rasta/Patois Dictionary and Phrases/Proverbs. Retrieved from http://niceup.com/patois.html.

Smart Designs (2012). The Official Visitors Guide to Montego Bay Jamaica. Retrieved from http://www.montego-bay-jamaica.com/

Storti, C., & Samaan, L. (1997). Culture matters: the Peace Corps cross-cultural workbook. Washington, DC: Peace Corps Information Collection and Exchange.

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