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Kassil A. Johnson

Mrs. Antonia Cadore-Calliste

Independent study CAS103



Research topic: Culture: Jab Jab tradition in Grenada

Research question: To investigate the appreciation of Jab Jab on the island of Grenada

Research objectives:

How many Grenadians participate in Jab Jab?

Is Jab Jab favoured by Grenadians?
What are the factors contributing to the continuation of Jab Jab?
Do Grenadians know the history of the Jab Jab?

Purpose of research:

The researcher chose to investigate the topic above, as Jab Jab is the main attraction of

Jouvert; an aspect of Grenadas carnival: Spicemas. Carnival is one of the oldest traditions

practiced on the tri island state and plays an important role in its culture. However, the

celebration of the Jab Jab is seen as a representation of all citizens of this state and may cause

individuals to feel falsely represented. The study is focused on how highly favoured the

celebration of Jab Jab is to Grenadas citizens so that a better understanding can be attained.
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Tradition is a belief or behaviour passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning

or special significance with origins in the past. Thus, extensive research was done on the history

and evolution of the Jab Jab and Grenadians knowledge on this.

Statement of the Problem:

The title of the study being conducted is To investigate the appreciation of Jab Jab on the

island of Grenada.

Value of the research:

The study can be viewed as one which holds vast educational value. Culture is defined as the

behaviours, beliefs, arts, values, customs and symbols of a specific group of people (society).

Tradition contributes immensely to the culture of the Caribbean, and more specifically, Grenada.

Attaining knowledge on the appreciation of particular customs and traditions can relay to a

deeper understanding of culture, a necessary topic in the study of many courses found in

secondary and tertiary institutions. This study will therefore be beneficial to Sociology,

Caribbean Studies and History students. Teachers can also use this study to better transfer their

knowledge to their students. Lastly, citizens of Grenada and other countries can have a deeper

knowledge about the history of this tradition that they participate in.

Technical terms used in the study:

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Jab Jab: A person dressed up as a devil-like character in Caribbean carnivals, who carries chains,

snakes an horns.

Carnival: A period of public revelry at a regular time each year, involving processions, music,

dancing and use of masquerade.

Masquerader: A person who wears masks and other disguises and often elegant, historical or

fantastic costumes at a party, dance or festive gathering.

Grenadians: Inhabitants or citizens of Grenada.

Parish: a territorial division corresponding to a county.

Cannes Brulees: Translated from French as burning cane

Congorees: Caribbean term for millipedes

Literature Review
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For this study, credible and scholarly sources were examined to achieve Grenadians opinions

and feelings towards Jab Jab. It is necessary that correct translation of Jab Jab is understood.

As reported by Seon Lewis (2014), the word jab has its roots in the French word Diable,

meaning devil. Thus, in the Grenadian context, Jab Jab, as it is used, means devil, devil or

double-devil. This translation suggests that Jab Jab is somewhat derived from French origin.

It is important that the origin of Jab Jab is understood, as it allows a clearer interpretation

of their unusual dress. According to L.M Fraser, in History of Carnival, In the days of slavery

whenever fire broke out upon an Estate, the slaves on the surrounding properties were

immediately mustered and marched to the spot. Horns and shells were blown to collect them and

the gangs were followed by the drivers cracking their whips and curging with cires and blows to

their work. After emancipation, the negroes began to represent this scene as a kind of

commemoration of the change in their condition, and the procession of the cannes brulees used

to take place on the night of the 1st of August, the date of their emancipation After a time the

day was changed and for many years past the Carnival days have been inaugurated by the

Cannes Brulees. The Jab Jab therefore holds significant historical value in regards to slavery in

the Caribbean. It strives to continue the tradition of resistance and rebellion of African slaves.

Lincoln Depradine (2009) in his article Spice Mas: World Class, Uniquely Grenadian

describes that traditionally, Jab Jabs would use any available substance, including stale

molasses, tar, grease or mud, to darken their skins to an extreme blackness. Sparsely dressed and

accessorised with items such as broken pots and pans, cattle horns and cow chains. Their dress
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can be said to be an excellent depiction of what Diable, the devil may look like, excellently

corresponding with the name Jab Jab.

There is no doubt that Jab Jab has evolved over the many years that has passed. Laura

Dowrich-Phillips (2015) says that In St Georges, the capital, and rural communities in St David

and Gouyave, Jab Jabs take the street en masse for Jouvert events painted from top to bottom in

black oil with horned helmets on their heads. Some had snakes wrapped on their helmets; we

saw one man pushing a rather large pig head in a stroller, another with a bucket of congorees,

while others strolled about menacingly with large chains and actual fish entrails hanging from

their mouths, red dye dripping alongside it for added effect. This gives a great description of

how important Jab Jab is to members of the Grenadian population.


Research design:
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The study will collect data from citizens of Grenada, on their participation in Jouvert and in

particular Jab Jab and their feelings and understanding towards it. Applied Research with the use

of Quantitative methods was selected as it is general, objective and value free. The data obtained

can be easily quantified and displayed in various charts and graphs.

Research instruments:

Printed and electronic questionnaires and interviews were chosen as the methods of data

collection. A questionnaire is a set of questions for obtaining statistically useful or personal

information from individuals. An interview is the verbal conversation between two people with

the objective of collecting relevant information for the purpose of research. A total of 100

questionnaires were distributed and 100 were returned. 60 of the 100 questionnaires were

distributed electronically via e-mail and other platforms. The remaining 20 were distributed face

to face. The use of questionnaires was appropriately chosen as they produce quantitative data.

Types of data collection:

The island of Grenada has a population of 105, 897 as of 2013. The sample was chosen using

the random sampling technique. Random sampling is a subset of individuals (a sample) chosen

from a larger set (a population). Each individual is chosen randomly and entirely by chance.

Research instruments were distributed to persons at random across the island of Grenada. This
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sampling method allowed for the elimination of sampling bias and produced an honest report of

Grenadians opinions.

Presentation of data:

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Figure 1: Pie chart showing the participation of Grenadians in Jab Jab

It's fun Represents my culture Other

Figure 2: Column chart showing why Grenadians play Jab Jab

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Figure 3: Pie chart showing objects Grenadians carry when playing Jab Jab
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Black paint




Figure 4: Bar chart showing what Grenadians paint themselves with when playing Jab Jab
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Figure 5: Column chart showing the percentage of Grenadians who know the history of Jab Jab
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Interpretation of data:

Considering the data obtained during the study, it can be said that the majority of Grenadians

interviewed participate in Jab Jab. Seventy three percent (73%) of persons of the fifty (50)

persons who play Jouvert stated that they participate in Jab Jab, while a small number of twenty

seven percet (27%) of persons do not.

Of the seventy three percent (73%) of persons who do participate in Jab, they all expressed

different reasons why they do. However, a surprising sixty two percent (62%) of those persons

stated that they play Jab Jab because it is fun. Fourteen percent (14%) of the Jab Jab participants

wrote that they play Jab Jab because it represents their culture. Twenty four percent (24%) play

Jab Jab due to other reasons.

When asked what objects are carried during Jab Jab, fifty two percent (52%) of the

individuals selected horns. Forty three percent (43%) selected Chains whilst twenty percent

(20%) selected snakes. Eight percent (8%) chose the both options whips and other.

When questioned about the substance used to cover their bodies, sixty three percent (63%) of

persons indicated that they used tar. Twenty five percent (25%) selected black paint and five

percent (5%), four percent (4%) and three percent (3%) chose mud, chocolate and molasses

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Grenadians were asked whether they knew about the history of Jab Jab or not. A surprising

number of seventy six (76) persons did not know the history. Twenty four (24) persons knew the


When presented with the picture of Jab Jab through the streets of Grenada, ninety-six percent

(96%) of respondents recognized it, whilst four percent (4%) did not.

Discussion of findings:

The researchs findings have indicated that the majority of Jab Jab masqueraders use horns

and chains while depicting the character. This supports L.M Fraser, in History of Carnival where

is stated that Jab Jab is historically linked to the slaves on the plantation who were summoned to

gather using horns and shells. The chains represent chains used during slavery. It was also stated

that slave drivers cracked their whips. However, whips were the least selected objects, though

ex-slaves sought to represent this scene.

Lincoln Depradine (2009) described that the double devils used available substances to

darken their skins. Responses correspond well with this as persons indicated that tar was the

most popular substance to be covered with, followed by black paint. Laura Dowrich-Phillips

(2015) also says that Jab Jabs were painted from top to bottom in black oil.

Seon Lewis (2014) stated that Jab Jab translates to double devil. The research indicated that a

picture of the Jab Jab is familiar to the majority of Grenadians, due to its devil-like image;
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described above as having horns and painted in all black. These devils represented slave masters.

This familiarity shows that Jab Jab is a popular tradition in Grenadas cultural event.

The research denoted that the majority of Grenadians are familiar with Jab Jab and like that it

represents their culture.

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The study which was performed was an investigation of the appreciation on Jab Jab on the

island of Grenada; performed during carnival. In conclusion, the majority of Grenadians

participate in Jab Jab and do so because its fun and is an important part of their culture. Though

it was established that the minority know the history of Jab Jab, the majority continue to depict it

perfectly during their carnival, almost exactly like their ancestors. This love for Jab Jab is what

drives its continuation.

Limitations were found during data collection, as only questionnaires and interviews were

suitable for the research. Observations were unable to be made due to the time in which this

study was conducted; not being the time in which carnival is observed on the island. Difficulties

were encountered in distributing questionnaires as the researcher sought to acquire response from

persons residing in all parishes of the island. Illegibility of written responses and time taken on

printed questionnaires produced setbacks in the research.

It is necessary that as the Grenadian population grows and older members of the population

die, the history of these cultural traditions are taught in schools or by parents in households. It is

important to continue the Jab Jab in firm knowledge of what is, keeping its portrayal rich in

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