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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Witch_of_Rose_Hall)

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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.

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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.