Category Archives: Culture

The Ghostly Mystery Revealed: Rose Hall Great House, Montego Bay

It was fun hearing from all of you as you tried to guess the site in my photo! Well its now time to reveal the mysterious destination! Drum roll please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is Rose Hall Great House in Montego Bay, Jamaica!

Rose Hall before its reconstruction

This Great House is probably one of the most popular in Jamaica and is located a few kilometres east of Montego Bay. It is a beautiful Georgian manse complete with stone base and a stunning view of the coast. The grounds are well-kept, peaceful and quite hilly in some spots. Occasionally you many glimpse a staff member pass by, dressed in the Jamaican traditional garb. Perhaps intentionally, this sight tends to feel like an immediate throwback to the days when slaves and servants scurried about their daily duties. If you look hard enough, you’ll spot a green-eyed cat peering at you from the shrubbery!

The beautiful drive up to Rose Hall Great House

Thus the legend of Rose Hall Great House goes… (extract from


The story states that the White Witch was Annie Palmer, who was born in England to an English mother and Irish father. She spent most of her life, however, in Haiti. After her parents died of yellow fever she was adopted by her nanny who regularly practiced voodoo and taught her witchcraft. She later moved to Jamaica, where she was married to John Palmer in 1820. She reportedly stood 4’8″.

John Palmer was the owner of Rose Hall Plantation, east of Montego Bay. Annie’s husband (and two subsequent husbands as well) died suspiciously, and it is speculated that Annie herself brought about their demise.

Fancy a drink with a ghostly companion? Then go below-stairs to Annie’s eerie pub!

Annie became known as a mistress of voodoo, using it to terrorize the plantation, and taking male slaves into her bed at night and often murdering them; supposedly because she was bored of them. The legend has her being murdered in her bed during the slave uprisings of the 1830s by one of her slave lovers named Takoo, who also practiced voodoo and became one of Annie’s lovers. Annie was said to be killed by Takoo because she was in love with the husband of Takoo’s granddaughter. When Annie found she could not have him, she conjured a voodoo curse on Takoo’s granddaughter who died a week later. When Takoo found this out, he killed Annie. Takoo ran into the forest to hide after murdering Annie, but was quickly caught by an overseer (another of Annie’s lovers) and killed.

It is said that a family who owned the property after the Palmers had a housekeeper who was “pushed” by Annie off of Annie’s favourite balcony, subsequently breaking her neck and dying.


So what exactly makes me think of Jamaican society today? This beautiful country can be such a study in opposites at times! It is a curiously intertwined maze that keeps you guessing and never gets boring. For one Jamaica is a Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional Monarchy in which Queen Elizabeth

A few sips might help you deal with the fear! 🙂

II is the reigning monarch, represented by the Governor General. Although there have been many calls lately for Jamaica to become a Republic, I have to wonder.

I wonder because it is amazing to see at times how old British attitudes flavor daily life. In a country whose population is more than 90% African descent, classism seems to rear its head. The divide between uptown and downtown is clear from lifestyle to accent. A strong Rastafarian movement which denounces and defies “Babylon system” exists alongside a Jamaica in which there is clear deference for all things Caucasian at times. Although we have moved past the days of slavery, it seems we have in this society found other ways to create entrapment. Makes me think of Bob Marley’s call to Emancipate ourselves from mental slavery…

Anyway if you do get a chance, I highly recommend you read this book for the story! Enjoy *mwwwaahahahahahaha*  (My attempt at scary laugh :))

The Book “The White Witch of RoseHall”
Rose Hall Great House today

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Top Entertainers host concert for primary school & pregnant teens

The beautiful Alaine belts out her lyrics

It is always great when persons give back. When that “giving back” is for the benefit of children, then of course I give it three thumbs up! Yes – I will borrow a friend’s thumb! Last Friday, songstress Alaine did exactly that as she celebrated her 34th birthday. The event dubbed Walking on Air featured a wonderful line up of performances. Apart from Alaine, the three that still stand out clearly in my mind are Tarrus Riley, Dean Fraser on sax and songstress Sherieta.

All proceeds from the event will be split between the Allman Town Primary School and Mary’s Child – a home for pregnant teens and their babies in Jamaica. I’m sure you will agree that this is indeed a worthy way to give back to society while celebrating one’s Earthstrong!

Tarrus Riley and Alaine entertain the crowd
Songstress Sherieta (contributed photo)

Just picture it – mellow vibe, packed venue, starlight, Blues cafe in the background, aroma of fine cuisine, glasses of wine glinting faintly… Add to that the beautiful Alaine resplendent in white/black mini dress, the electrifying presence of Tarrus Riley showing the “Lion Paw” and the deep, earthy lyrics being belted out by Sherieta.

It’s not over yet…

Now imagine you are being serenaded by smooth notes floating out from the saxaphone – courtesy of the famous and talented Dean Fraser.  

You should now have a smile on your face.

Do enjoy the photos (thank you Kate!) and video of Alaine performing one of her songs (No copyright infringment intended)

Tarrus Riley electrifies the stage
These patrons certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves!

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Jamaica to the World: Olympic Victory “tun up” Half Way Tree!

Jamaica was the place to be yesterday as the country waited in painful anticipation for the results of the men 100m finals. Half Way Tree erupted in a wave of euphoric screaming and total chaos as their beloved Bolt and Blake cleared the finish line and sealed Olympic Gold & Silver. What a tribute to the Land of Wood & Water on the eve of its 50th year of Independence! Check out the video for a peek at jubilation on Jubilee’s eve! Forgive the shaking – I was also celebrating while taping! 🙂 Also check out these photos for patriotism – Jamaican style!

Flag man down in Crossroads
Lightpoles and fences get a Jamaica 50 makeover!
The Jamaican ladies represent their country – decked out from head to toe!
Jamaican youth are in the midst of the celebrations too!
When in Rome err Jamaica – do as the Jamaicans do!
This stylish Patriot shows the ladies how to do it!
This Jamaican man shows the ladies how it’s really done!

Jamaica 50 Event: Book Readings in Emancipation Park

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. ~ Dr. Seuss

Today Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, St. Lucia & Barbados celebrate Emancipation Day. On August 6th, Jamaica celebrates its 50th year of Independence from British rule. Everywhere you go, the pride of the Jamaican people is clear – from brightly coloured t-shirts, flag-draped vehicles, artfully decorated buildings and even fences and sidewalks painted in the national colours. Jamaica 50 fever truly has caught on! There are also a myriad of events going on throughout the country, allowing the citizenry to walk down memory lane, learn about their history or just spend quality time together. Here are some highlights from the recently held – Readings in the Park [Claude McKay to Olive Senior] & Unveiling of : Jamaican Literature – A Quest for Independence.

This standing poster tells a bit about the event
Sample of readings for the evening
A section of the audience at the reading
“Out of Order” Jamaican Authors. Some notable authors in this category include: Anthony C. Winkler, Evan Jones, Colin Channer, Patricia Powell & Opal Adisa Palmer
“This Lovely Wayward Island”. Noted authors include: Andrew Salkey & Neville Dawes
Post Independence Male Voices. Some of the featured authors include: A.L. Hendricks, Anthony McNeill, Edward Baugh & Mervyn Morris
Jamaicans Aroused: A look at Feminist Jamaica
Shaping Identity: Jamaican Children’s Books. I can still remember studying “A Cow called Boy” as part of English Literature class!

Once upon a time – no, hour – in Trench Town Jamaica

Trench Town: The birthplace of rock steady & reggae music, home of the legendary Bob Marley. Original name – Trench Pen after owner Daniel Power Trench – an Irish immigrant. Originally 400 acres of land used for rearing livestock. Trench Town is an inner city community in the West Kingston area, located just a short distance from the infamous Tivoli Gardens.

Bob’s life was perhaps more than just sitting in Culture Yard and honing his art. He walked the streets outside those walls. He stood by the street corners, he “reasoned” with friends from the tenement yards. So this post is a little less about Bob the Legend and a lot more about Bob the man with a plan and a van – living in Trench Town, the community. This is a tribute to the tolerant and friendly persons of Trenchtown. I now present to you: one hour in the life of Trench Town – the things Bob saw – and will never see.

The sight of goats roaming the streets is a regular sight, so they must be included in this tribute to the community.

The Tenement yard next door to Bob’s famous Culture Yard

A very pleasant friend. He shared a few things about Bob’s life with me.

Mobile chicken and corn soup vendor

He was kind enough to sell one of the little girls soup on credit

This youngster shows us how corn should be eaten

This little girl occupies her time with her craft. She wants to be a doctor.

Motivational words on the wall of the Trench Town Reading Centre. A very inspirational message for the inner city youth.

These youngsters enjoy some time reading. It is great to see that the boys are also spending some time reading.

 The children took this photo. I think they did a great job.

The children play jumprope in the yard. I tried but apparently I lost my skills.

Yes she can change the world. Her dream is to become a doctor.

Of course I must acknowledge the man who brought us all to Trench Town, Bob Marley.

I promise that I will dedicate a post to Culture Yard and Bob’s memory soon. Thank you to the community of Trench Town for allowing us to come in by our hundreds each year to honour the memory of one of their sons. I have an early morning appointment so I really must run!

Saturday’s menu-“Burgher”, no fries: A youth concert in Burgher Gully community

in-ner cit-y: The area near the centre of the city, esp, when associated with social and economic problems (google)

On Saturday I took the bus down to East Kingston, to a small inner-city community called Burgher Gully to attend the Youth Leaders Concert. I was accompanying a friend – Kate – to the concert which was organised by the NGO – Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.).

After a typically late start, the concert finally got underway. It was refreshing to witness the enthusiasm and talent of children ranging from age 2 to 18. They drummed, sang and acted in two dramas designed to highlight racism and prostitution. The main event of the evening however was the dancing. It was clear that these youth put a lot of hard work in practicing their routines and the outcome was nothing short of captivating. On a point of reflection, I do notice that the Jamaican has a different rhythm and movement of body in response to the beat of music, especially when compared perhaps to persons from the Eastern Caribbean. I was bit disturbed however when a five-year old girl won a dancing competition with some gyrations fit only for a married adult locked in a bedroom. Simply my perspective of course. I must say great job to the MC for the evening who did all in her power to ensure the youth enjoyed an educational, fun and clean night out. The atmosphere was happy, the night sky clear, the breeze cool and gentle with the sound of music & laughter everywhere.

What I found out about the venue was as interesting as the event itself. The space is also the Eastern Peace Centre of the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF). With the support of UNICEF, the Burgher Gully Project was established and assisted 45 youth who were out of school by providing structured activities for them over a three-month period, thus keeping them occupied and off of the streets. Sadly the problems these inner city youth face have not gone away altogether, but it is helpful to see organisations like Y.O.U., D.R.F. and UNICEF continue to reach out. Moreover, it is gratifying to know that my organisation, Cuso International, supports the work of Y.O.U. & D.R.F. through capacity building and knowledge sharing. Thank you to the children of Burgher Gully for a fantastic Saturday evening.

Rags to Riches & Kingston pon de river 2012

During the day I eat with Royalty,

Converse with the powers that be,

Guide the movers and shakers…

But at night I dine like a pauper;

I commute with the poorest of society;

In the early mornings I converse with the King Himself,

Before leaving to start it all over again.

(Copyrighted 2012 OMB)

I was priviledged to join the Assemblies of Holiness church in a weekly trip to downtown Kingston – specifically the Poor Relief Department (aka “Poor House) to feed several homeless persons. Honestly, you don’t appreciate what you have until you’ve engaged in an activity like this. If you have a queasy stomach, perhaps its not for you, as sadly these street persons dont always have the opportunity for a bath or clean clothes. I was happy to be able to do the little that I could and felt awed at how they initiated the singing of a hymn of praise before eating the meals we provided.

On a different note, it was also the culmination of the literary, arts & music festival – “Kingston pon de river” in Boone Hall Oasis. What an experience! From the comfortable (& free!!) shuttle ride into the mountains to the Oasis, to the easy flowing river strewn with boulders, lots of local craft on display, food, drinks and good music. All set amidst lush bamboo and old trees, flowers, birds and thousands of insects. It was poetry galore from various artistes, some accompanied by drumming, a comedic interlude that set us rolling, a gospel jazz component featuring an American artiste on sax and live band rocking some serious oldies. Minister of Youth & Culture, Lisa Hanna, also did some reading from one of her favourite books.

Somehow I ended up on camera as one the performers jumped off stage, came over to me and started singing “Baby I love you” to which of course I had to respond in my best singing voice. Thankfully the rain did not start pouring! The evening culminated with drumming & dancing around a beautiful bonfire just after dusk and a walk along a pathway lit with tealight candles. Thanks Shalini for the great company as we took it all in from our vantage point on beach mats on the grass:) It’s really the little experiences in life that have the ability to give the greatest pleasure.

The Poet, the Sexologist & the Jazzman…

It was a lyrical evening under the stars to the backdrop of smooth jazz. Sultry words dripped like honey from lips to eager ears. Hairs stood on edge, skin pricked in anticipation of the next menu of words. I’m talking about poetry. The Literary, Arts & Music festival – “Kingston pon de river” kicked off last night at Studio 38, Pulse Complex in New Kingston. It took me some time to make up my mind to attend but it was worth the sacrifice of an early bedtime. I dont know why, but these days I have been on a journey to explore the inner me and I’ve finally accepted that the inner me is a poet at heart with an insatiable appetite for words. So naturally the next step was to find the community where my budding art can be supported. “Kingston pon de river” – a spin-off of “Calabash” usually held at Treasure Beach – did not disappoint.

I was really entranced by the way ladies like Shelly Ann Weekes, Tanya Shirley & Rosie Murray added flavour to their words. Had to keep my jaw from dropping at some of the content, but hey, you live – you learn:) Shelly Ann Weekes I found out is a sexologist who hosts her own show on radio. Well one thing for sure is that you have to be quite secure as an individual to go into that field and judging from her performance, she certainly is! I think the highlight of my evening was meeting English-based DJ and promoter – Gordon Wedderburn – the man behind the smooth medley of jazz music. Lookng forward to more exciting encounters as I explore this dimension of me. For now, its back to mopping floors and cooking lunch.

Kingston Launch of “Marley” Documentary

Bob – legend, musical icon, husband, father, mixed- race boy from the inner city & country. Perhaps most important of all, depending on how you look at it, he was undoubtedly, unapologetically Jamaican. One person, many sides and all of them portrayed in the documentary set for worldwide release April 20th – Marley. Last night the Jamaican population was given the distinct honour of sitting with musically royal Marley family to share their stories, thoughts and moments with Bob (image borrowed from net, no copyright infringement intended).

The venue – Emancipation Park, in the heart of New Kingston – was packed to overflowing as thousands of Jamaicans came out to see their beloved. Most sat or lay on mats, cushions, blankets, sprawled on the damp grass, beneath the night sky and the large screens. Complete strangers, through their love for the man and his music were united in this droplet of time. Two ladies I never met before offered my friend and I a seat on their red blanket. Adults swayed and young ones bobbed to the lure of the Bob’s voice. Scents of boiled corn, pan chicken and other street delicacies filled the night air with, of course, the inevitable smoke of herb.

My pores raised as the song “One love” was sung by various persons around the globe – from South Africa & the Congo to California, and on to India & Nepal. No greater reminder was needed of the far reaching tentacles of the message Bob had to share. As the documentary opened we were taken to Elmina Castle, Ghana – site of slave trade. We were walked to the “Door of no return” where slaves were stripped, branded and taken to waiting slave ships. As we went through the door we exited to images of Bob singing “Exodus”. The journey had truly begun.

Depending on how good a student of history you are, you may well find that not too many “new” details were given, but for many I am sure it was a riveting and very moving experience. Seeing Bob’s first teacher sing his favourite song about a donkey, hearing the reason for the choice of name “Wailers” – because they came from a place where people were always wailing and bawling – and finding out that part of the the group’s preparation for success involved performances in the dead of night for duppies (spirits) in the cemetery – all added to the tale. Read between the lines and it is easy to see where the man who gave himself to the world fell short in being father and husband. Perhaps most priceless of all was the slight tremor when his cousin and half sister publicly admitted that the boy who had been shunned by his father’s family had indeed become the cornerstone of the Marley name.

As images of Trenchtown 50 years ago and at present flashed, one couldnt help wondering whether much had changed in the inner city since Bob moved uptown to 56 Hope Road. Lisa Hanna, Minister of Youth and Culture in her speech described Marley as the consummate student of the sidewalk university. Certainly an apt reminder that in life it’s not so much where you came from but where you are headed. Thanks Bob for sharing one night with me.

D Island Life: A Jamaican coaster ride!

Island life is one that has always attracted people from all walks of life. Tourists come from every part of the world to experience the supposedly carefree, rythmic, sea, sand & sun existence of the Caribbean. Yet beneath the seeming nonchalance, there is a life, a character, a savvy, a certain vibe that defines the West Indian experience and makes me proud to be a daughter of this collective soil. Having spent some time in Jamaica, I feel it is an absolute necessity to walk you through what is a typical morning commute for many Jamaicans. Please forgive the lack of accuracy of my patois! Here goes with some of my first impressions after the first few coaster rides (I am happy to report no recent sprains, twists or broken limbs:)

Dancehall music blaring from the radio, passengers screaming “buus stap”, “leh go”, “let aff” “ducta, ducta”; the conductor hanging out the speeding maxi bawling “down town” “alfwey tree” “run come mammy” while screaming to the driver “ROAD!!!” (meaning drive off); $20 coins jingling in passengers hands, with those standing have grabbed on to seats, roof, holder and yet still manage to sway in time to the music! The driver loudly converses with no one in particular, while it seems he’s testing every possible technique to crash the vehicle. Yet he too manages to “bubble” to the music, switch CDs, sight the occasional policeman and screech into every bus stop!

It seems Thursday however is a day of peace for coaster rides. I have decided it must be the calm before the avalanche of dancehall lyrics on Fridays. Last Thursday I hopped onto my coaster, fully prepared to lose hearing in one ear and lose control of my heartbeat but to my surprise – and delight – I got Thanksgiving Thursday instead! I was treated to every form of foot tapping, hair raising, soul balming gospel there is – for two (2) straight coaster rides! Lucky me:)

Mind you the soothing lyrics had no effect on the crazy driving, so I had to enjoy my music while standing, gripped to the overhead bar and trying not to fall out the window or door! So there I was enjoying de vibes for what could very well be my last ride before de afterlife! From my vantage point I started to look around to see if the other passengers were enjoying it as much as I was. Well they most definitely were! Curiously though, it seemed that the guys were more into it than the ladies!

There was one rastaman just behind me and I swear he was going to start church up in de coaster! He was flinging those locks, dancing and singing like nobody’s business! A lock or two almost hit me square in the face – at which point I was tempted to pull mine down and start flinging them around too. Almost like – brotha man you cant show me how to pelt locks – take that!! and oh yeah Praise God!!!! Then I thought better of it and just moved around by 1/16th of an inch – it was all I could do seeing that I was packed in like a sardine! Ah, what enviable morning bliss!

You just have to love Jamaica:) If after reading this post you still dont believe me, then do a search for “Two white women pon a minibus” Prepare to smile:)