African American Culture

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Exploring African Influence on the West Indian/Caribbean Culture It is rather interesting that in a “progressive” society, our behavior and practices are firmly rooted in our past. It is ever possible to wrest ourselves from the harsh realities of slavery and its ensuing impact upon Caribbean way of life? Probably to do so may mean rewriting history (our-story) or maybe knowledge of where we are coming from is what we need to help us embrace those parts of our history that must be held on to and celebrated and relinquish the undesirable parts: our acceptance of being powerless; our antagonistic propensities. The impact of West Indian slavery on the cultural landscape of the Caribbean cannot be under estimated or taken for granted. In the entire discourse on West Indian slavery, it is often taken for granted that the discussion centers solely on enslaved Africans. However, slavery brought to the region not only African but Europeans (Spaniards, French and British) and consequent to its abolition, there was the advent of the east Indians. We see the impact of their influence in the names of places; the foods we eat; our music and dance; our arts and craft, gender and sexuality. As these and other anecdotal evidences are examined and the academic contributions of others are analysed, Caribbean culture will be clearly defined and its origin established. Slavery and its attending impact upon Caribbean culture have been both positive and negative as remnants of the social/class system of the “plantocracy” linger and take deeper root in the Caribbean community, in general and the Jamaican landscape, in particular. Via the slave trade, the Caribbean has adopted many aspects of African culture. Jumping, leaping, kicking, shuffling, and waving are all body movements incorporated into African folk dance. Some of these movements are particular to gender, as jumping and leaping are reserved for male dancers while shuffling is reserved for female, nonetheless, each movement is meant to evoke emotion and tell a story. Subsequently, African folk dances are emotionally draining and physical demanding as the body is constantly switching to different rhythms in the music. Since African folk music is poly-rhythmic, meaning more than independent rhythms are present at once, dancing quickly becomes overwhelming.  No one has made a greater contribution to Caribbean folk dance than West Africa. Traditional Caribbean dances feature much of the same characteristics of African folk dance. Jumping, waving, and shuffling are all incorporated into the choreography. For example, Kumina, a Kongo derived religion indigenous to the Eastern shores of Jamaica fuses Christian and African pathology. Kumina culture features not only African choreography, but language as well. And by "Kongo" I mean deriving from the Kingdom of Kongo, not the Republic of Congo, which in its prime stretched to the Atlantic Ocean to the West, Congo River to the North, Kwango River to the East, Kwanzaa River to the South (i.e. from Gabon to Angola) in unison from the 13th to the 20th century. Traditional Kumina or Cumina dance is inspired by the Akan people of Ghana and Ivory Coast, while their native tongue is Bantu from the Congo-Angolan region. It is not hard to believe, that Dutch slave traders captured Africans from Kongo to be brought to West African ports for the Middle Passage such as the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana. As a result, blending their Congo-Angolean ethnic customs with others in the region. Regardless, Kumina possess choreography from the Akan people of Ghana and Ivory Coast and language from Bantu people of Congo and Angola exemplifying just how integrated the slave community was when brought to Jamaica. As a region with a predominant African antecedent, we begin to engage the discourse from the perspective of the influence of In her book, “Our cause for His Glory”, Shirley Gordon (1998) examines the influence of Africans tradition on the practice of religion in...
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