What IS Jonkonnu

When Africans were captured and sold as slaves, they brought with them many of their religious, ceremonial, and festival traditions. Jonkonnu, also known as John Coonering, was one such Christmastide tradition that tapped into its African spiritual roots through combination of costume, music, and dance. The tradition appeared in Jamaica during colonial times, and later spread to others Caribbean islands, Bermuda, and North Carolina.

Revelers participating in Jonkonnu would dress in masks and multi-colored costumes, form a parade line, and travel from house-to-house clapping, singing, and dancing, During the festivities the performers could put aside their daily toils and enjoy themselves in the celebration. The parade would perform at each house until the homeowners, usually the performers’ enslavers, came outside and paid them in coins.

What can you Do with Jonkonnu?

Tryon Palace celebration reaches beyond the holidays. Free drumming and dancing camps are held throughout the summer for children interested in learning about the joys of Jonkonnu. Teachers and education programs can now purchase a Jonkonnu activity book with a CD. Jonkonnu also participates in community programs and celebrations, parades, as well as school and other educational programs.

If you would like more information about having the Tryon Palace Jonkonnu perform or are interested in joining, please email Sharon Bryant.

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