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Rethinking the Historical Development of Caribbean Performance Culture from an Afro-Iberian Perspective

The Case of Jankunu

by Jeroen Dewulf

This article advocates for a new perspective on Caribbean performance traditions by adopting an Afro-Iberian perspective. It argues that we are able to acquire a better understanding of the historical development of some of the most enigmatic Caribbean performances, including Jankunu, by taking into consideration that many of those who built the foundations of Afro-Caribbean culture had already adopted cultural and religious elements rooted in Iberian traditions before their arrival in the Americas.


A comparative analysis demonstrates a series of parallels between early witness accounts of Jankunu and Iberian calenda traditions. In order to explain this, the article points to Iberian dominance in the early-modern Atlantic and, in particular, Portuguese influences in Africa. It highlights the importance of confraternities and argues that it was in the context of African variants of these mutual-aid and burial societies that elements rooted in Iberian traditions entered Afro-Caribbean culture.

Lees het artikel hier in de New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids.

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