About Junkanoo

 

The origin of the word Junkanoo is obscure. Some say it comes from the French “L’inconnu” (meaning the unknown), in reference to the mask worn by paraders; or “junk enow”, the Scottish settlers’ reference to the parades, meaning “junk enough”; or “John Canoe”,  the name of an African tribal chief who demanded the right to celebrate with his people even after being brought to the West Indies in slavery. Here in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Junkanoo has been a celebration of the salt harvest trade which occurred during the trading of the salt. When merchant ships would bring goods to trade for the harvested salt, it was celebrated by the Islanders through the beating of drums, pots and pans, the scraping of saws, scrub boards, shaking of maracas, cow bells and the blowing of conch horns and whistles.

It is believed that the Junkanoo Festival began during the 18th century. It is also celebrated during the Christmas, Boxing Day and New Years holidays when we would dance, play music and dress in costumes and masks. This tradition continues even today. Junkanoo has evolved from its simple origins to a formal, more organized parade with sophisticated, intricate costumes, theme music, incentive prizes and dance routines.

Christmas celebrations in Turks and Caicos would not be complete without Junkanoo groups “rushing” in the streets. During the early morning hours of Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and New Year’s Day.  Starting from the darkness of early morning with costumes and banners intricately designed and patterned from minute strips of crepe paper of all colors glued to clothing, cardboard and wood, with the pulsating sounds of the goat skin drum, cowbells, whistles and horns: the unique sounds of Junkanoo.