Good day! How you do?
I thought it would be good to give you an update on what I’m currently researching. This project probably won’t happen for a while, due to this current climate. Fuck you, Rona! But I’m really enjoying my current research.
So, my project will explore the Jumbie Dance. It was an African-derived folk religion on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. The ceremonies were the feast of food, music, and dance that reinforced bonds with living and ancestral kin, and often functioned as a healing ritual. Also, ‘jumbie’ is a Caribbean term for spirit or ghost, in Jamaica they say ‘duppy’.
The Jumbie Dance has unfortunately died out due to the impact of colonialism and the Church. As someone of Montserratian descent, I only found out about the dance at the age of 25. It’s not something that is spoken about often amongst Montserratian people. I found the lack of discussion to be intriguing. Therefore, I am on a mission to bring back the jumbie dance as a way to fight the impact of colonialism. I have an idea to create dance, Live Art and installation pieces inspired by it.
There are many stories about jumbies and the dance itself, however, the generation that has these stories and memories are dying out. It's important to keep these stories archived, as there isn't much written about the ritual because it was quite hidden. There’s literally only one book that focuses on it, that book is called ‘The Jombee Dance of Montserrat’ by Jay D. Dobbin.
The ritual was believed to be so powerful, that patients in hospitals were removed by relatives and taken to jumbie dances seeking a cure. Making this piece would be my attempt in trying to bring an important element of Montserratian culture back to life.
That way my generation and the generation after can continue to speak about it. During slavery, the enslaved Africans in Montserrat would have jumbie dance ceremonies in secret, as they weren’t allowed to engage with their African spiritual practices. They did this as a form of therapy to help cope with the brutalities of slavery. But they also did it as a way to retain their spiritual practice. I want to also explore retaining knowledge through the guidance from ancestors. Because that is something which sits outside western frameworks of thinking.
Questions I want to answer through performance:
What would’ve happened if my ancestors were allowed to engage with their African spiritual practices?
What would Black people in the West be like if African spirituality wasn't seen as demonic?
What would I be like if my Parents and Grandparents told me about the Jumbie Dance from a young age?
What would the Jumbie Dance look like if it were alive today?
Do you place your faith in science or spirituality?
DANCE In my previous work ‘Idol’ I explored movement, which was an element that I thoroughly enjoyed. I now want to challenge myself with making a piece that is movement and visually driven. Slightly pushing away from my text-based work and seeing where my practice could go next. I will work in collaboration with dance artists who will help with my creative vision. I will be focusing on what the jumbie dance would look like if it were still alive. I also want the dance performance to be accompanied by a live band.
DURATIONAL The jumbie dance usually lasted between twelve to twenty hours. It also included a midnight feast and break, which lasted between forty-five minutes to an hour and a half. I would like to experiment with duration to fully commit to bringing the dance back to life.
INSTALLATION I want to see how my work sits within different artistic contexts. I feel like there’s only so much I could do within theatres. Potentially occupying other areas to see what happens is something that really excites me. I’m interested in creating an atmosphere that will resemble the experience of a jumbie dance. I also want the installation to be influenced by jumbie stories that could be displayed on walls or played through audio. The installation would also include the music and songs that were played during the ceremonies.
So yeah, that’s just me hoping I can make this happen one day. I’m trying my best to stay positive, because I’m so excited about potentially making this a reality. This COVID-19 drama will pass, eventually. Well, I hope so.
Take care of yourself and stay safe! Ase x