This week’s Travel Photo of the Week takes us to the warm blue water lapping against the pink sandy beaches of the Bahamas. The biggest festival in the 3,000 plus islands of the Bahamas is Junkanoo, a festival started by the plantation slaves brought from the US by British loyalists after the American Revolution. The colorful costumes and rhythmic music was a way to stay connected to their African roots. The slaves were given three days off a year close to Christmas to celebrate with their families. Drums made from goat skins stretched over discarded containers and bells made from leftover metal created the beat for this lively festival. Bright costumes were fashioned from scavenged items including feathers, leaves and natural dyes.
The origin of the name Junkanoo is not certain, but one theory is that a tribal chief with the given name John Canoe demanded the right to celebrate with his people in the 1700’s. Another popular theory is that it originated from l’inconnu the French word for the unknown, a nod to the masks that are worn by those participants whose identity is obscured during the parade.
Junkanoo is now celebrated twice a year in the Bahamas on December 26th (Boxing Day) and New Year’s Day with the biggest festivities happening in Nassau, the capital. Festivities start at 2 am and continue well past daybreak. Junkanoo is now an elaborate festivity that participants work on extravagantly themed costumes and choreographed dance routines a full year in advance. A brass section has been added to the homemade drums and bells but the music still stays close to its origins. Individually made costumes consist of a head dress, shoulder piece and a skirt. Costumes are made from crepe paper meticulously glued to fabric, cardboard, and wood frames and are adorned with “found objects” like feathers, mirrors, and shells. The creative, vibrant costumes, rhythmic music, and dances are sure to move you.