“JAB JAB”- NAKED PHILOSOPHY
“No thing can be reduced to nothing”.
Lucretius (circa 99BC-ca. 55 BC)
JAB IN MARTINIQUE
“The molasses Negro [Negre molassi]
His whole body and face is smeared with an atrocious
mixture of soot and molasses”.
-Lafcadio Hearn (1887). Hearn
visited Grenada on
his way to Martinique.
JAB IN CUBA
In his Lettres surl'Amerique
(1852), Xavier Marmier tells of blacks who smeared their
bodies with tar to mark the January 6 Afro-Cuban
Carnival known as Dia de Reyes (Day of Kings). The day
of Kings Carnival was abolished in 1886.
JAB IN HAITI
"A band of bare-chested horned and
hooded men whose bodies are covered with sugar-cane
syrup mixed with soot and powdered charbon ['coals"].
In Haiti these Carnival characters are called lanceurs
de corde,rope launchers".
Novelist Edwidge Dandicat
In After the Dance: A Walk Through
the Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti
Everywhere in the world the powerful
have given themselves the right to assign names to
everything under the sun. In Grenada, for instance, the
powerful have given the name “Jab” (from the French
diable [deeab], meaning devil) to a masquerade character
that has been a part of our carnival for umpteen years.
But the so-called Jab is really no
devil. In fact, he belongs in a magico-religious system
and his flock call him “Yeye”, a word meaning “spirit”.
In the New World this black spirit was “blackened” and
was assigned to Hell’s basement.
Grenadian carnivals see many
so-called “Jab Jab” bands. Typically, a band is led by
father -figure whose get- up includes the following: a
tattered copy of the Christian Bible (or any big book),
a bull horn headpiece, a live serpent, and a stout staff
representing an aroused penis.
The Jabs’ dance simulates the sex
act; their songs (and their “Spellings”) are steeped in
an unspeakable ribaldry: An interview with Memory
revealed what is definitely the least offensive of such
“Thelma, you pwell want manure”!
And while I am at it, let me admit
that it was the Jab Jab songs which “learned” me the
plasticity of words, and how words could be wrung into
exotic shapes and meanings. Example: Mahogany
tables for sale: No drawers!
Bull horn headpiece, live serpent,
simulation of the sex act. What is the meaning of the
The bull horn headpiece is an
assertion of a hyper masculinity. The serpent (a skin
–shedding creature) writhes a story of fertility,
regeneration, and rebirth.
The simulation of sex illustrates the
means by which the community is made and remade.
The penis is deemed to be the
instrument that inserts life into the womb of the world.
Eh heh, the Jab is the mascot for a
© August 2012
Photo courtesy National Geographic