Objects From Our Past

Jamaica has a rich history and, as we celebrate 50 years of Independence, we take a look back at how we got here. With the kind assistance of the Institute of Jamaica, 'Objects from our Past' will highlight objects which are part of the Institute of Jamaica's collection. 




The fishpot is used by the Maroons in Jamaica for general fish-trapping. The pot is made of weaved strips of bamboo to ensure fish enter but cannot exit the pot. The pot is placed as part of a stone barrier built in the river that forces fish to swim directly into it and be captured.




The sarangi is the most popular bowed instrument of India. The sarangi's history is several hundred years old, beginning as a voice accompaniment and gaining a reputation as a wonderful solo instrument. However, the sarangi fell into disrepute after it became the instrument of courtesans – beautiful ladies who entertained noblemen. The sarangi is capable of closely imitating the human voice. This instrument is made of a block of wood, with goatskin stretched over it. There are three main playing strings and 30 to 40 sympathetic strings. The sarangi is played with the tops of the fingernails of the left hand pulling the main strings. It is bowed with a heavy bow. In India and Pakistan, it was used to play classical music. In Jamaica, however, the sarangi is used to play folk music.




Kola Nuts (bissy) are traditionally offered to much-respected guests visiting homes in many parts of West Africa. The nuts, which contain a mild stimulant, are eaten to relieve tension, hunger pangs, to socialise – rather like wine-drinking in Western societies.

(Collections of the Institute of Jamaica)








This Stradivarius Model 37 Trumpet was owned by charter member of the Skatalites, Johnny (Dizzy) Moore. Mr Moore is arguably the most recorded musician of the Ska period having done studio performances not only with the Skatalites and the dozens of singers they backed, but also with lead soloists such as Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook and Don Drummond. He was an engaging soloist with a well-developed sense for melodic invention, which was expressed through his lean and fluent approach. 









The name Tassa is of Persian origin and means 'kettle' drum. It is made from a clay base to which goat skin is attached and then beaten with a stick traditionally made from wild cane. It can be found in India and other Indo-Caribbean regions such as Trinidad and Guyana.







This musical instrument is made from hollowed tree trunk and carefully prepared goat skin secured by cocoon vines. It is used on both religious and secular occasions such as communicating with the ancestral spirits and for healing. Its integral role in the liberation struggles against the British has made it a revered item among the Moore Town Maroons.