Looking At The Chain Of Jamaican History Cultural Studies Essay

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The primary language in Jamaica is English; however since the country was ruled by several colonizers there is a little Spanish and French incorporated in the language as well. "Most likely you will hear what sounds like a foreign tongue. This unique language is called "Patois". Patois is a combination of Spanish, English, Portuguese and African phrases which sounds more rhythmic then traditional English" (Pillai, 2010).

Other aspects of Jamaica culture, which defined the Jamaican society is art, dance, and music. One style of Jamaican art is its Afro-Caribbean style. This style was created by the skills and experiences from the slaves that came from Africa. Jamaican art is described as sculptures, paintings, collage, wood carving and craft works. Also, some of the art reflect the characteristics of classical European art which is the primitive and intuitive style. The dance and music is what all brings Jamaicans together; they use these medias to communicate with the society especially the youth. One of the main themes of traditional reggae has been social liberation. The Jonkonnu is the most popular dance in Jamaica; it is referred to as the slave dance. "People dressed as Jonkonnu wore large horns on their heads, horse masks, and cloth tails on their backs as they sang, danced, and played musical instruments" (Wilson, 2003, p.12).

In Jamaica, religion has created distinctiveness within the culture. The religion Rastafari was first introduced in Kingston, Jamaica and the believers are called Rastafarians. According to Wilson (2003), "They believe that Ethiopia, a country in Eastern Africa, is their spiritual homeland and the birthplace of their ancestors… and they also believe in one god named Jah" (p.10). Most Rastafarians live separate from non-believers; they are all natural so they grow their own food and prepared it without preservatives. They are known around the world for the dreadlocks that the men and women wear. "Their dreads resemble the hairstyles of certain Ethiopian tribes" (Wilson, 2003, p11).

The dress practice in Jamaica is a shorthand expression of the cultural history. As Buckridge (2004) stated in the text "African slaves brought their customs in dress to Jamaica and were able to maintain and nurture them" (p. 174). Once African slaves were free, they only had their talents and knowledge to represent the African culture in their new location, Jamaica. Therefore, many of Jamaican dress practices are original practices from Africa, mainly West Africa.

Jamaican Dress

As Buckridge (2004) stated in the text "The continued importance of dress as a symbol of resistance and accommodation is evident in aspects of Jamaican popular culture and movements. These contemporary dress styles play a key role in the shaping and construction of a Jamaican identity" (p. 15). The way Jamaicans dress reveals their attitude and lifestyles. Jamaican women traditional clothing includes body supplements of pre-shaped enclosures such as handmade tops, tiered skirts and head scarves. The women skirts and head scarves are combination-type body enclosures. Jamaican men dress typically includes light trousers, cotton or linen shirt and bandannas. These dresses are pre-shaped body enclosures and men bandannas are wrapped enclosures.

One form of dress in Jamaica is Rastafarian clothing. These clothes deeply reflect the use of bright colors from Ethiopian flag. The unique hat worn over Rastafarians dreadlocks known as a tam is a pre-shaded body enclosure. A tam also gives body modifications of shape and structure overall adding height and shaping the hair. The hairstyle worn by Rastafarians which is dreadlocks is a texture of body modification.

In Jamaica, the footwear is a body supplement of pre-shaped enclosure and is usually flat. Many older women wear moccasin like footwear that are slip-ons and men wear sandals for comfort. However, footwear can also be a body modification of shape, structure, and sound especially in young girls that wear the stylish flaunting high heeled block shoes.

Jamaica has some marvelously artistic, creative and brilliant jewelers who can utilize the islands natural resources to construct attractive Jamaican jewelry. Many of the pieces are body supplements which is combination-type body enclosures. Earrings, bracelets, necklaces, bangles and rings are also attachments to the body. In Jamaica, beaded rings are made with beads in the colors of black, green and gold and are normally made in only one size. "Metal jewelry is also quite popular in the form of necklaces, pendants and bracelets usually with a cotton cloth base for adornment. They are predominantly made from natural resources obtained on the island, usually in the form of beads, coconut shells, coral reefs, straws, feathers, buttons, hemps and sea shells"(Blake, 2007).

Influence on Dress

A major influence on the unique design of dress in Jamaica is the climate. Jamaican clothes are very colorful, vibrant, loose and comfortable. Overall, the island is hot and humid with the temperature averaging around 82° year round. Due to the tropical climate, clothes are most likely to be designed with lightweight cottons and linens and with short sleeves or sleeveless.

The writer Laura Dunkley (2008) mentions in the article that, "Jamaican art depicts the everyday life in the country. Arts can also be seen in Jamaican clothing and it has been greatly influenced by European and African arts". Jamaican fashion is extremely reflected by craft works and paintings. For example, one of the most popular paintings printed on clothing in Jamaica is paintings of Bob Marley, a famous Jamaican Rastafarian and reggae singer. Craftwork such as crocheting are more found on accessories such as hats and bags in vibrant colors and beading occur it Jamaica jewelry representing the creativity and innovation behind the designer.

Jamaican clothes are also influenced by the country's popular religion, Rastafarianism. The Rastafarian-type clothing is normally red, green and gold, which are the colors of the Ethiopian flag. "According to Rasta Supply Guide, the red symbolizes the blood of black people, the yellow the stolen gold and the green signifies the lost lands of Africa" (Fontelera, 2010). The trendiest Rastafarian clothing piece is known as tam which is a knit hat that is worn over dreadlocks. The clothing is made from all natural fibers such as wool, hemp and cotton. The writer, Huber (2010) claims, "The Rastafarian-type clothing also coincides with the reggae music culture, so the styles and colors of the clothing are popular with both singers and listeners".

"Just like the fashion trends are changing the world over, so are the fabrics and patterns in Jamaica. The younger generation prefers sober colors and combinations. The older people opt for loud and dark clothing" (Borade, 2010). In Jamaica, clothes for women are traditional handmade. A typical daily outfit, a woman will wear a skirt, a blouse and a head scarf made from Calico. In the article written by Borade (2010) mentions, "Calico is a sort of cotton cloth locally made and marketed. The scarf is draped in a particular way. The piece of material is folded in half and tied around the head and then tucked, to prevent it from slipping off".

Compared to other cultures, the clothing worn by men in Jamaica is a little different as far as the design and fabric. They wear pant and shirts but the fabrics are vibrant in color similar to the women clothes. "They love designs with flowers, loud colors flaunting sailing boats and swaying coconut palms and the sun and sea" (Borade, 2010). As far as the dress for children in Jamaica, the kids dress in light attire to stay cool in the hot weather such as dresses for the girls and shorts and t-shirts for the boys.

In conclusion, "This Caribbean nation's attire fuses Western and traditional looks. The characteristics that tie the two are vibrant, striking colors and comfort." (Fontelera, 2010). The merge of diverse cultures globally has led to a cultural diversity that is reflected in the apparel of the Jamaicans and the overall culture.


Report II Sociology and Art of dress:

1. Whether Dress is Body dominate or Body Subordinate

1.1. Dress: Body Dominate or Subordinate

Explain why and how this dress draws attention to or away from focused parts of the

body. Is it body dominate or body subordinate?

The dresses in the photo A, B, and C portray divergent modes that draw diverse

attention from whoever looks at the wearers. Photo A and B portray traditional dress an

as they cover most part of the body, they are body dominate while Photo C is body

subordinate. The latter photo is western style dressing that would portray a different

Lifestyle and a foreign culture that non conformist.

1. Dress: Does it Exemplify Social Values or Trends?

Is this ensemble or practice an example of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times? If so,

explain how modifications and supplements to the body exemplify social

values or trends of the time.

3. 1. Unique Aesthetic of Dress

Fully describe the unique aesthetic of the dress practice or ensemble. Is there a particular way the components are supposed to look? What happens when the wearer adheres to the prescribed formula? What happens when they deviate? What messages are conveyed? Include a visual that captures this aesthetic (physical conformity and/or deviation).

Photo A Photo B Photo C

C:\Documents and Settings\Dr. Zochin\Desktop\traditional-jamaican-dress-21224162.jpg C:\Documents and Settings\Dr. Zochin\Desktop\deviated jamaican.jpg

Fully describe the unique aesthetic of the dress practice or ensemble. Is there a particular way the components are supposed to look?

The Jamaican mode of dressing has a unique aesthetic ensemble. Their dressing generally represents multicolored and multishaped decorations which represent their multi cultural ethnic diversity.

Photo A, shows a Jamaican woman dressed in the traditional attire. She is wearing a skirt, a top, and a head scarf that are made out of Calico which is a sort of cotton cloth. The traditional dress of the Jamaican woman reflects their attitude of being determined. The fabrics chosen for the clothes are light weight, bright and vibrant to keep cool in the tropical climate. There is a particular way that a headscarf ought to be draped and not just any way, that is, fold the scarves in half, wrap and tie them around the head tucking the ends under to keep scarves slipping off.

What happens when the wearer adheres to the prescribed formula? What happens when they deviate?

Naturally traditional cultures have internal dynamics that portray not only their culture but also the history of such cultures. The Jamaican culture is no exception. Adherence to the mode of traditional dress receives favorable perception from the immediate society, especially among traditionalist. The mode of dress depicted above (A and B) shows what is accepted in the Jamaican traditional sphere. Such also portrays someone who still upholds the society's values and traditions.

On the other hand, photo C is a wide contrast from the first two. The lady puts on Western style dressing although she tries to maintain the traditional colors. This photo depicts a western life style which may be viewed by traditionalist as a deviation and may be fodder for negative perceptions. It may depict loose morals and a non conformist personality. More often than not such persons are viewed as social deviants and may find it difficult to be accommodated in ordinary traditional settings. The lady in the photo may be trying to innovate and look different. That does not necessarily mean that the lady is unethical or does not follow the local traditions.

4.1. Dress: Approach or Defy Cultural Ideal (of what is attractive)

Explain how this dress practice or ensemble helps the wearer approach or defy a cultural ideal of what is attractive. Use elements and principles of design to describe what you mean.

The two ladies in A and B show their traditional preferences and therefore confirm to the traditional dressing code. The dress as we see on photo A is long, loose and comfortable. The headscarf is done to match. While photo C is a complete deviation and a personality at odds with the traditional attire, while the colors still scream Jamaican.

5.1. Dress: Individuality or Cultural Conformity (Cultural ideas)?

Identify the importance of individuality and conformity in the culture

out of which this dress practice or ensemble originates. Explain how this

type of dress relates to cultural ideas about how unique or conforming

individuals are expected to be.

The first two dresses demonstrate cultural conformity and is widely accepted by the traditional Jamaican society. The two portrays the history of the people and the rich diversity of their cultures married from different traditional background.

Photo B portrays that of a Jamaican who, to some extent has been influenced by western culture conveyed through various media: TV, Internet and social interaction with western living lifestyles'. This would have occurred through wide travelling of or the pursuit of education in various parts of the world.