The Jamaican Culture is made up a rich blend of cultures passed down from the:
● Tainos/Arawaks, who originally inhabited the island before its discovery by Columbus.
● Spanish and British conquerors.
● African slaves – whose ways of living are dominant in the Jamaican culture.
● Chinese and East Indian indentured workers which were brought to Jamaica.
Our culture is expressed in diverse ways, with some expressions varying from parish to parish . . . and even differing from household to household. Five such expressions of the Jamaican culture include:
The culture or “ways of living” in Jamaica is first obvious in the Jamaican’s attitude to excel and to achieve in spite of all odds, in any country, and in all arenas of life – Science and Medicine, Music, Commerce, Education, Agriculture, Sports etc.
Jamaicans are very creative, hard-working, and industrious. They are resilient and expressive. They also possess an attitude to outsmart con-artists and to be the victor in circumstances where they face the cunning schemes of deceivers.
These attitudes have been passed on through the generations, and are being reinforced in various ways in the Jamaican society today.
The Jamaican culture includes various traditional religious practices and beliefs. Over 80% of the population is influenced by Christianity, and Jamaica is known to be the country with the most churches per square mile than most anywhere in the world.
One religion that originated in Jamaica in the 1930’s is Rastafarianism or The Rastafari Movement.
This religion has its belief system and teachings based on portions of the Old and New Testaments in the Bible. However, it’s followers – Rastafarians or Rastas, worship Haile Selassi I of Ethiopia as the incarnate Son of God.The Rastafari Movement has impacted the Jamaican culture in various ways and many Jamaicans, who are not Rastas, have embraced some of the practices of this Movement in the areas of language, use of colours (red, gold, and green), diet, fashion (dress and hair style), philosophy of natural living, and music.
Some Jamaicans have also developed an appreciation for Cannabis or Marijuana which is used in the religious ceremonies of Rastafarians.
This religious practice involves using the chalice and the smoking of Marijuana, which they call “Wisdom Weed”.
In Jamaica, Marijuana is also known as Herb, Sensimina, Weed, and Ganja.
Since Marijuana is used in religious ceremonies and also cultivated by several Rastafarians, we also find a small percentage of Jamaicans – who are not Rastas, using ganja products, and also growing a Marijuana plant or two in their private gardens.
* Please note that it is legal to possess small quantities (2 ounces/57 grams) of Marijuana for medicinal, scientific, religious, and personal use in Jamaica. Read the Fact Sheet on The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 [PDF]. for further details.
Despite the Christian religious influences in the Jamaican Culture, many Jamaicans are superstitious and have a conscientious fear of ghosts or spirits, which they call “duppies”. Many duppy stories are shared among Jamaicans from as early as childhood, and many persons are advised to do and say certain things to ward off evil spirits.
In the Jamaican culture, some persons also practice (or consult those who practice) an African religious belief called Obeah. Read more about Obeah here.
Obeah was brought to Jamaica by the African slaves who practiced it as their religion. Obeah is a type of witchcraft and sorcery. It is also referred to as black magic. Obeah involves the usage of certain plants (herbs), pharmaceutical products, and spirits (aka demons).
Persons practice Obeah for various reasons: for protection against evil spirits, removal of spells and curses, as well as protection from evil and “bad mind” persons. Obeah is done mainly in secret as it is illegal to practice it in Jamaica. Read details about the Obeah Law passed in Jamaica since 1898.
The cuisine of Jamaicans is influenced by the multi-cultural dietary and cooking techniques embraced within the Jamaican culture.It involves the usage of a mixture of meats, vegetables, ground provisions, fruits, Jamaican spices & herbs, and other ingredients to produce many savory dishes, drinks, fried foods, sweets, and deserts.
The Jamaican cuisine is well sought after and appreciated by Jamaicans and many other persons worldwide.
Music and Dance
Music and Dance are key components within the Jamaican culture. Both forms of expression have been directly influenced by the music and dance forms that existed from the era of slavery in Jamaica.Jamaican music is a motivating force; it is a means to freely express ideals, and an art that showcases the creativity of the Jamaican people. Through music, values and attitudes are relayed; and the messages presented, provide wisdom, advice, and warnings … shared with a tint of humour.
Although Jamaicans appreciate all kinds of music, their use of instruments and their musical expression (based on experiences within the Jamaican culture), have resulted in the origination of the following music genres: Dancehall, Dub, Mento, Reggae, Rock steady, Ska.
There are also several Dance forms within the Jamaican culture, some of these are: Bruckin, Dinki-mini, Jonkunnu, Kumina, Revival, Quadrille.
The rhythm of Jamaican music seem to flow through the blood stream of every Jamaican, and they must almost, always move along with its beat. Jamaicans thrive on music; and both music and dance events are scheduled for most holiday seasons, birthdays, and for selected weekends.
The music industry has boomed, and because of this, many individuals have created music groups and established organizations to provide entertainment regularly. Jamaican music and dance are also enjoyed by persons in other Caribbean islands and in many countries of the world.
Jamaican art: paintings, sculpture, carvings, jewelry, textiles and clothing etc., is another form of cultural expression of the Jamaican people that is admired, sought after, and treasured.These Artists put much effort in their work and take pride in their unique designs and production. Jamaican artists are reputed for producing top quality work that is rich in colour, inspiring, and innovative.