Back to roots is the journey you’ll take when in Bunkers Hill, Trelawny. And on a day such as Emancipation Day, celebrated on August 1 in Jamaica, this community immerses itself even deeper into its carefully preserved cultural practices, as they throw-back to a time of slavery through dance and song.
It’s the kind of knowledge and understanding the Bunkers Hill Cultural Xperience and River Tours aims to reconnect the wider community of Bunkers Hill and visitors with all year-round. They make a special effort to include Jamaicans from all walks of life, and tourists from around the world, in order to preserve and expose more people to a not so well-known part of Jamaican heritage, concealed in the belly of the Cockpit Country.
Tambu, which has its roots in nearby community of Congo Town, is a must experience for visitors, especially on Emancipation Day. Gyrating waist lines of both women and men, showcase the inescapable African retentions, as they intimately perform seductive movements, while melodiously singing indigenous songs that mesmerise onlookers of all ages.
“Tambu is a traditional folk dance and it come from Congo Town,” Donna Grizzle explained.
“The drum represents the old Maroon,” her older sister, Sharon Ellis, who is also one of the performers, chimes in. “The drum is what them used to use to talk in a long-time slavery days. Every sound that it make is talk them a talk to the old Maroon them.”
The dance and music are comprised of different sequences, Donna continued. There is mabumba, which involves a shaking movement, and shay shay involves a call and response sequence that goes along with the movements.
The Congo Town tambu group, tries to sustain their practice by visiting and performing in nearby schools, such as Muschette High, and performing at events.
“Some of them get big and forget it, but it not going dead out so easily,” Mr McPharline expressed, more optimistically about the continuity of the art form.
A sanctuary for indigenous history and culture
It was concerns like this, which played a part in the model Clover and Obrian Gordon chose to establish Bunkers Hill Cultural Xperience and River Tours. One of several social enterprises nurtured by the JN Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the now concluded Social Enterprise Boost Initiative, the business is about creating a sanctuary, of some sort, to preserve the community’s unique cultural practices and history, while at the same time using those characteristics to generate income and promote development.
The lush ‘Edenesque’ property, watered by the Tangle River, which feeds the greater Martha Brae, boasts caves once inhabited by Captain Kudjoe and his band of Maroons and the Tainos, to which visitors can take a heart-pumping hike through the forests of the Cockpit Country to experience the history. And, beyond the caves, lies the ruins of the Dromilly Great House, and the site where Cudjoe and his men ambushed British troops around the Year 1795.
Patrons to Bunkers Hill will experience traditional Jamaican cuisine, with ingredients provided only from the community, that include jerk pork and chicken; coconut rundown, mannish water, blue draws and cornmeal pudding cooked over wood fire, among other authentic Jamaican dishes, which are served only from a calabash or enamel ware.