– photo by Jab Jab Official
You thought Holi was a messy festival? Wait till you read about Grenada’s Jab-Jab!
We are sure you know about the Indian festival of colors that is quite popular all over the world. While some of us lock ourselves in our homes, rooms (or bathrooms) or hide under the bed to avoid the dreaded ‘pukka’ colors getting into our eyes, nose, ears and mouth at the hands of overzealous revelers, some of us are part of that overzealous gang, and some of us are happy with a gentle rub of organic gulal on the cheek.
Grenada, too, celebrates an equally exciting tradition during their annual Carnival (called Spicemas) where people paint themselves in oil, mud or color.
Jab-Jab is actually a tradition of a street party (called J’ouvert) celebrated during the annual Carnival in some Caribbean islands. In this festival, people come out to the street, cover themselves in either oil, mud or grease and wear cattle horns to portray Jab-Molassie – which means “molasses devil”. It is believed to be one of the oldest Carnival characters.
In modern times, the traditional Jab-Molassi have mutated into other creatures of colour, with Blue, Yellow and Green Devils joining in the parade. These colourful devils are much more playful in character, and only want to dab a bit of their body paint onto unsuspecting bystanders, as they dance through the streets to the rhythms of the accompanying drums, steel bands and calypsos from huge DJ trucks.
The history of Jab-Jab can be traced to the times when slavery was prevalent in the Caribbean and slaves were forbidden to participate in the Carnival. When slavery was abolished, groups of freed slaves came out to the street painting themselves in black to celebrate their freedom. They often blamed the society for their years of suffering and to offend the society, they chose to dress scantily and used chains and padlocks around their necks, hands and legs. However, with time, this rebellion turned into a tradition and today, it is part of Grenadian culture and celebrated during the annual Spicemas.
Even though the festival is celebrated both in Trinidad and Grenada, the latter is believed to be the birthplace of Jab-Jab.
Typically, Grenada’s Carnival ‘Spicemas’ runs from the second weekend in July until the second Tuesday in August. It comprises various events like the traditional Mas’, J’ouvert, Fancy Mas’, Dimanche Gras, Soca Monarch (soca music competition), Carnival Queen Show and a Children’s Carnival.
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