ST GEORGE’S, Grenada– Spicemas’, Grenada’s signature festival, scheduled for August 13-14, will present the upbeat island music and the colour and splendor of the annual carnival.
The festival, described as a culturally authentic awakening experience, provides an excellent opportunity to see some of the ole time mas’ characters with deep ties to the country’s colonial heritage such as Shortknee, Jab Jab and Vieux Corp.
The mask-wearing Shortknee is one of the most compelling icons of Spicemas’ and the masquerade pays homage to Grenada’s French and African heritage. The word “Shortknee” was coined back in the 1920s when creole (local language) was gaining popularity. Previously the masquerade was known by the French phrase “Grenade Pierrot” meaning clown. The word Shortknee is a clear reference to the trousers worn by the masqueraders that end just below the knee. The trousers and bodice are made of yards of brightly coloured cloth and fastened to the legs and wrists. The front and back of the bodice are decorated with tiny mirrors, which culturally were thought to protect the wearer by “reflecting” his enemies. The Shortknee also wears a wire screen mask over a powder-whitened face. During Spicemas’ you can behold the spectacle of a Shortknee band, or better yet, join one.
Before emancipation, African slaves were not allowed to participate in Carnival, but this never stopped their own celebrations. One of their portrayals is the Jab Jab, in which masqueraders once covered themselves in molasses. These days they are covered in black oil. The masquerade was a representation of how the slaves saw their colonial masters complete with horns and chains. Today, Jab Jab is more of a celebratory portrayal in which everyone can participate, even you. Since then Jab Jab has turned into a movement that has spawned a whole type of sound call the ‘Jab Jab’ riddim, which is prevalent during the festival.
Vieux Corps is a mas’ of disguise which dates as far back as the pre-emancipation era and is indigenous to Grenada. Vieux Corps are French words which literally translate to “dead body” however the portrayal has more to do with the era of slavery. The masquerader’s identity is concealed by a mask made of wire mesh signifying the loss of identity endured by the slaves brought to Grenada from West Africa. Traditionally, the gown of the costume was made of crocus bag material or black cotton fabric. More recently, costumes have become more colourful and creative. Heavy clogs made from the wood of the mango tree are worn on the feet with band members stomping in a rhythmic fashion, to accompany their chants.
Book now to experience this wonderfully expressive cultural phenomenon and meet the traditional masqueraders.
The Grenada Tourism Authority has a Canadian office at 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 605 in Toronto. The telephone number is 647-979-7873. Email : firstname.lastname@example.org