Aspects of Afro-Caribbean People

Black Atlantic

Striving to be both White and Black takes some particular form of double consciousness. The modern black Europeans, such as the Anglo-Africans of the earlier generations stood between two immense cultural assemblages, both of which have mutated through the course of the modern world, which formed them and assumed new arrangements. Thus, they are linked symbiotically in an aggressive bond marked out by the symbolism of colors that added to the noticeable cultural strength of their Manichean dynamic (black and white). This is what came to be referred to as the Black Atlantic (Paul Gilroy 12).

Diaspora

Diaspora is the movement of people to other places of the world. The term has predominantly being used to describe people who were captured into slavery and taken to the high seas to be sold as slaves during the Atlantic slave trade. The Afro-Caribbeans were descendants of West Africa slaves who were brought to the Caribbean Islands at the time of the Atlantic slave trade. However, at the present Diaspora is used to describe people of whatever race who move to other continents if pursuit of education, education or a better living.

Vodou

Vodou is a West African word that means spirit or godly creature, is a syncretic way of life, which originated from the Caribbean. Those who practice Vodou are generally referred to as “Vodouisants”. It developed as a blend of West African religion with “Arawakian religion”, and “Roman Catholic Christianity”. Vodou was developed by the enslaved Africans who were taken to the Caribbean during the Atlantic slave trade and still practiced their conventional African cultures, but were compelled to convert to the religions of the slave masters. This practice came as a result of the Haitians trying to recreate their own identity and culture hence the emergence of the Lwa, a divinity worshiped by the Haitians. However due to prosecution, the Haitians interacted their Voduo practice with Catholicism which like Catholicism had saints and symbols to represent the saints and divinity. The Vodou worship had many other divine symbols which include the pantheons, veve, Bon Dieu, St. Jak, Erzuli Freda among others. Though Vodou had been practiced as an underground religion as it was deemed as ‘satanism’, it currently recognized as a religion.

Lucumi

Lucumi can be used to refer to a liturgical speech, a vernacular of the Yoruba people commonly spoken in Cuba and United States. It is also a syncretistic religion that originated from West Africa and the Caribbean. It merges the worship of Orisha (god of West Africans) and aspects of Roman Catholic. Lucumi is an ethnic group of “Afro Cuban, Afro Puerto Rican and Afro Dominican people who claim to be descendants of the Yoruba people in West Africa.

Candomble

The word “Candomblé” means “dance in honor of the gods”. It is a syncretic religion that originated from Africa and Brazil, which is mainly practiced in Brazil by the “povo de santo” (people of saint). It combines conventional Yoruba, Fon and Bantu practices and some elements of the Catholic practices. It emerged at the time of the Atlantic slave trade; the African slaves brought with them their practices and were later integrated into the Brazilian religion, though they did not completely leave their beliefs. The religion does not have the concept of good or bad; every individual is only expected to fulfill his or her destiny, no matter what it is.

Cosmograms

The cosmogram is a symbol, which manifests the Kongo, or Bakongo beliefs. This is a simple expression of the Kongo “sign of the cross”cruciform, a holy “point” marked on the ground where an individual stands on for oath-taking. The Kongo cruciform means the overlapping of the Christian mission. “One line represents the boundary; the other is ambivalently both the path leading across the boundary, as to the cemetery; and the vertical path of power linking “the above” with “the below” (Thompson 109). This relationship, in turn, is polyvalent, since it refers to God and man, God and the dead, and the living and the dead. The person taking the oath stands upon the cross, which signifies placing himself between life and death, and invokes the judgment of God and the dead upon himself”(Thompson 112). The cruciform means the equally forceful revelation of the circular shifting of man’s soul about the circumference of its intersecting lines. The Kongo cruciform thus describes the never-ending community of all virtuous people.

Thrones

Literally, throne refers to the executive stool on which the crown sits during state functions or rituals. The concept can also refer to the position or the crown itself. “One of Oduduwa’s sons, Oranmiyan, took the throne of Benin and expanded the Oduduwa Dynasty eastwards. Further expansion led to the establishment of the Yoruba in what are now Southwest Nigeria, Benin, and Togo, with Yoruba city-states acknowledging the spiritual heritage primacy of the ancient city of Ile Ife” (King 86).

Altars

“Altars are places upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious reasons, or other holy places where religious functions occur, they can be situated at shrines, churches and other religious places” (King 42). Altars are structures for intercession where images, colour, sounds, and placement craft a visualization of heaven. They were an important element in Orisha worship, and were commonly referred to as Santeria.

Orishas

Orishas are guardian spirits or deities, which reflect one of the demonstrations of Olodumare (God almighty) in the Yoruba religion. The Orishas are elements of the divine being, which has power over all the forces of nature and the deeds of humankind. They recognize themselves and are recognized by their various numbers and colors that are their identity. Every Orisha has its own choice of food, sacrifices and so forth. In this way, people make their sacrifices according to the way they are used to, in the way they have always received them, so that they will recognize people’s sacrifices and come to assist them. (Thompson 47) notes “this faith is expressed in varieties according to localities. For example, Candomblé, Lucumí/Santería, Shango in Trinidad, Anago and Oyotunji, as well as in some aspects of Umbanda, Winti, Obeah, Vodun and a host of others”.

Lwa

Lwa, also referred to as “zanj” or “miste” are a supernatural creatures in Vodou working as emendations of God. The grand lwa is made up of both “nature spirits” and “functional spirits.” Commonly known among the nature spirits are “Dambala, the serpent spirit; Bade, spirit of the winds; Sogbo, a Fon spirit of thunder; Shango (Yor., Ṣango), the Yoruba spirit of thunder and lightning; and Agwé, spirit of the sea” (Dorsey 16). The functional lwa include; “Legba (the Fon guardian of crossroads and all barriers); the Ogou (Yor., Ogun) (family, spirits associated with war); Zaka (associated with crops and agriculture); Ezili (a sea goddess among the Fon, but transformed in Haiti into the personification of feminine grace and beauty); the members of the Gèdè family (the spirits of death); Adja (skilled in the fields of herbs and pharmacy; and Obatala (the Yoruba divinity responsible for forming children in the womb)” (Thompson 67).

Lwa are connected with the Catholic saint, for instance, the “Legba is often believed to be the same as Anthony the Hermit, but some say that he is Saint Peter, the keeper of the keys. Dambala is identified with Saint Patrick, on whose image serpents are depicted. Ogou Ferraille is equated with Saint James; while Ogou Balanjo, the healer, is associated with Saint Joseph, who is pictured holding a child whom he blesses with an upraised hand” (Holtzclaw 18).

Carnival

Carnival is an annual festive season that takes place 40 days before Lent; the actual ceremony is held at the month of February. “On some days of Easter, Roman Catholics customarily did not consume meat and poultry products, thus the name “carnival” derived from “carnelevare” which means “to remove meat.” However, carnival festivals are thought to have been enrooted from the pagan festive season of “Saturnalia” that adapted to Christianity and became a send-off of bad things in a season of religious discipline to practice repentance and prepare for Christ’s death and resurrection. Carnival festivals usually involve public celebrations or parades involving some features of circa, masks and public street parties. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which mark an overturning of daily life” (Gilroy 156).

Rite of passage

A rite of passage is a ritual ceremony, which marks an individual’s passage from one stage in life to another. It is a common event that can show social hierarchies, principles and practices that are vital in particular cultures. Victor Turner categorizes rites of passage into three parts: “separation, margin, and aggregation” (as cited by King 49). It serves as a reaffirmation of one’s commitment to their religious and social practices. The basic model of society is a hierarchy of status where individuals are located in a comparative power relationship with one another. The liminal stage in a rite of passage is a state in which neophytes are detached from that system so as to transit from one status to the next. At the liminal stage, the situation of the neophyte is indefinite.

Coolness

“This is a situation of been cool; Calm impudence; self-possession; want of ardor, warmth, or affection” (Gilroy 96) The Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American cultures such as music, language, humor and fashion are usually steeped with “coolness” which brings about ethnic stereotypes.

Gender politics

The world’s political arena has been engendered. This is where one gender has dominated a country’s politics and monopolized the pillars of authority. Just like other countries around the world gender politics is still a major issue in the Caribbean. Women are normally discriminated against due to their gender. As a result, the development and empowerment of women in the region is one of the lowest in the world. However, the governments and other stakeholders, for example, the NGOs, are taking up the challenge and have resulted in creating equal opportunities to all genders in order to ensure that none is discriminated against. In addition, the governments have formulated legislations and laws that seek to empower the minority in the society in order to create an equal society in the region. Despite all these efforts from different stakeholders, there is still a lot of work and activism to be done to ensure that an equal society is created.

Character

Character is a combination of various attributes, values and qualities of specific individuals that distinguishes them from another separate group of people or an individual. Therefore out of this, the person or group is bound to act in a specific manner and approach life from a different perspective as another group of individuals would. The Afro-Caribbean’s have several characteristic traits that are similar and have been carried on from time in memorial. For instance, they are famous for storytelling and coolness. Moreover, they are deeply religious although they observe different faiths.

Works Cited

Dorsey, Lilith. Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism. Calgary, AB: Kensington Pub Corp, 2005. Print.

Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness. New York: Harvard University Press, 1993. Print.

Holtzclaw, Fulton. The Saints go marching in. West Yorkshire: Keeble Press, 1980. Print.

King, John. Tudor royal iconography: literature and art in an age of religious crisis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989. Print.

Thompson, Farris. Flash of the spirit: African and Afro-American art and philosophy. Vancouver, WA: Vintage Books, 1984. Print.

Thompson, Farris. The four moments of the sun: Kongo art in two worlds. Washington, District of Columbia: National Gallery of Art, 1981. Print.