Tribute to JANUKA by Joan S

Tribute to JANUKA: by Joan S

Joan’s Tribute – “Lang run …Shaat ketch”

In 2006, I attended a charity function to raise awareness of the need for Black and Minority Ethnic bone marrow donors. JÁNUKA Quadrille dancers performed at this event. I was duly impressed by the energy and enthusiasm emanating from them, and the visual attractiveness of their black, green and gold costumes, that represented the national colours of Jamaica.

The music and dancing were so exhilarating that I couldn’t help moving my body and feet to the rhythm and beat. Everyone around me also appeared to be enjoying themselves.

The whole experience took me back to my childhood days, when as children we would make our own entertainment (dancing, singing and drumming with makeshift instruments) on Sunday afternoons, during school holidays, and as part of family and community events.

These fond memories made me realise that I wanted to belong to this group. I already knew some of the dancers in a professional capacity. They were the “nurses” in JÁNUKA, and as a nurse, I wanted to be one of them.

But time passed, and being caught up in the busyness of life and work, I did nothing about it. In 2016, a chance meeting with Beverley, the coordinator and driving force behind JÁNUKA led to an invitation to “come and see” what it was all about. I welcomed the opportunity, because belonging to this group was always in the back of my mind. I attended a couple of JÁNUKA Quadrille taster sessions, thoroughly enjoyed them, and with work pressures now reduced, I decided to join the group.

Now here I am, committed to the ethos and philosophy of JÁNUKA!! I am inspired by the magnitude of our task, the commitment and the challenges to preserve and continue the dances, language, music and songs of our ancestors.

The familiar Jamaican folk songs that we sing, which everyone knows by heart, now have a deeper, more significant meaning and impact for me. They speak to me of the struggles our ancestors bore, their resilience in the face of such hardships, and their triumph over adversities. Our ancestors’ learned how to survive and their survival strategies are spiritually conveyed to me when I sing and dance.

JÁNUKA‘s overall aim to entertain, educate, empower and inspire positive awareness of our Jamaican cultural heritage is vitally important for our present and future generations.

Through regular performances and workshops, the seniors reminisce about the past as they join in the singing; dancing and sharing their memories.

Workshops carried out in schools are all positively evaluated. They give the children from diverse national and international family backgrounds, an insight into Jamaican cultural heritage through dance. The costumes, music, drumming and singing excite them, and the geometrical patterns created on the dance floor, reinforcing mathematical concepts, kindle their imagination.

I thoroughly enjoy myself on Friday evenings when we meet to practice. The buzz, friendships and camaraderie are undeniable, but it is vitally important to acknowledge the discipline and personal commitment needed if we are to showcase a high standard of song and dance in our performances.

I happily recommend JÁNUKA to all who want to increase their knowledge and awareness of Jamaican culture and heritage. The group welcomes all, regardless of age, race, culture and gender, physical or dancing ability.

It is well documented that regular dancing is beneficial to the overall health and well-being of individuals. JÁNUKA provides an opportunity to dance regularly, to socialise and support one another. In so doing, this group has the potential to unify and build cohesive communities, similar to the example set by our ancestors before, during and after slavery.

I am sometimes unavoidably away for weeks at a time, but I am always welcomed on my return. Resounding from the group is….. “Dis lang time gal me neva see yuh, cum mek me hole yuh han. Dis lang time gal me neva see yuh, cum mek we walk an talk”

Becoming a part of JÁNUKA has taken me a long time, but now I am here to stay. As the Jamaican proverb says …. “Lang run, shaat ketch”.

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