Arts + Culture + Sports

In this section, find excerpts and links to The Gleaner’s Special Series: Pieces Of The Past authored by Dr. Rebecca Tortello in 2003.  Where applicable, updated information can be found throughout the site.

Old Time Tellin’s: A Closer Look At Jamaican Proverbs

In Jamaica, proverbs stand as examples of creolization ­ “a cultural action, material, psychological or spiritual based upon the stimulus response of individuals to their environment and as white/black, culturally discrete groups to each other” (Braithwaite, 1971, p, 26). Our proverbs reflect African and European influences and are uniquely Jamaican. As in many cultures, the ability to understand proverbs rests… (READ MORE)

Celebrating Christmas Jamaica ‘Style’  

In decades past Christmas time included a number of different types of celebrations marked by distinctive sights, sounds and smells. There was the tradition of the “Grand Market”, the much-heralded arrival of Santa Claus in the downtown shopping district and the dramatic performances of the Jonkonnu bands… (READ MORE)

Old Time Jamaican Weddings

Today most Jamaican weddings resemble weddings in western countries, borrowing mainly from American and English practices. Yet, they are noted (like French West Indian weddings) for the traditional rum/fruit cake served to guests and occasionally frozen for serving on the first anniversary. In the past, following… (READ MORE


The Magical Spiderman: Anancy

The survival of the trickster tale was not an accident as it was “socially and psychologically best suited to the condition of the Negro in the New World” (Tiffin, 19, p.21). With his cleverness and unfailing ability to have an answer for every situation, Anancy reminds us that slaves were not ignorant, weak, passive individuals who merely accepted their fate and did nothing to challenge it. Part of Anancy‘s strength comes from.. (READ MORE)

Deadly Superstitions

Superstitions permeate many aspects of Jamaican life. Not surprisingly, the cultural influence most often cited is African. What may be unrecognised, however, is that the area with the strongest retention is death, including burial practices. Most of these beliefs are born out of fear of the unknown; fear of what happens after death and how it can affect the living. These actions are carried out because it is believed that they will protect those left alive from the wrath of the spirit of the dead, known colloquially in Jamaica as the duppy… (READ MORE)

A Time To Live: Jamaican Birth Rituals

Not so long ago, many Jamaican children were born at home and subject to a number of different actions, none of which included scores of any kind. Some of them were similar, however, to those found in other cultures. In Jamaica birth rituals were overseen by nanas or midwives, and varied from place to place, depending on… (READ MORE)

A Time To Die: Death Rituals

Today, Jamaican death rituals mix African and European cultural practices with Christianity. Christian hymns and references to the spirit’s journey to heaven are intertwined with African rituals aimed at placating … (READ MORE)


Jamaica Horse Racing History 

In Kingston, the importation of horses for breeding and racing purposes goes back to the 1700s and organised racing started in the 18th century. The first race course was laid out in 1783 in the north of the city. Over time, the races came to involve much more than the races themselves. There was a ritual parade of … (READ MORE)

A Fascination With Football

Jamaica’s first football club is said to have been formed in 1893 and it remained largely a club sport for half a century before evolving into a community-based sport. According to the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), the Kingston Cricket Club was one of the first to introduce football although many members quickly became… (READ MORE)