JIS News

Distinguished Fellow at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Edward Seaga, has praised Jamaicans in South Florida for advancing the country’s culture in the region.
Speaking recently at the inaugural Distinguished Lecture Series at Nova Southeastern University in South Florida, Mr. Seaga said that the Diaspora in the South Florida community had introduced many forms of Jamaican entertainment to the area, to showcase the nation’s cultural heritage, its talent and resources.
He also commended the formation of the Jamaican Diaspora Movement and noted that through the coming together of the people, there would be more cohesiveness of decisions and ideas to further the development of the country and the diaspora.
Mr. Seaga’s presentation was centred around the topic: ‘The Role of Culture in the Development of the Jamaican Psyche – How We Define Ourselves’. He spoke about the impact of the structure of the family unit on “our psyche,” using examples to illustrate the strengths, weaknesses and stability and how that behaviour was “characteristic of our identity.”
Mr. Seaga said that traditional identities are created from the perceptions and realities which characterized Jamaican folk life. He traced the dominant influences from birth to mature periods of life, to outline the experiences that shape and define “our cultural identity as influenced by our folk culture.”
Those characteristics included the care and discipline which, he indicated began with birth, the early infant training with reference to indulgence, demand and satisfaction, aggression, competitive influence, education, respect and justice, all of which were fundamental to the Jamaican psyche. The family structure, he continued, enveloped all those experiences. According to Mr. Seaga, Jamaica’s folk culture has shown strength of the country’s achievement. “Creativity becomes an essential skill in the wider arena of daily life and contributes to the individualism of Jamaicans in traditional society,” he added.
The arts were the most widely recognized area of folk talent in Jamaica, he said, and noted that the stylistic flourishes were evident in sports, religious form, trading patterns and the individualistic lifestyle of the traditional culture.
Mr. Seaga cited the storehouse of traditional rhythms and some of the folk music repertoire, as well as the beginning of Jamaica’s contemporary music as an indigenous version of boogie and rhythm and blues popular in the United States more than 50 years ago.
Jamaica’s contemporary music, he said, was a product of the raw talent that enabled untrained, unlettered composers to produce an impressive range of rhythms, lyrics and melodies that have achieved excellence and international recognition. He cited hip-hop music that owed its origin to impromptu interjections of rhymes in pop songs that became popular in Jamaica. This later emerged as an art form – deejay and dub music – in Jamaican folk culture more than 35 years ago.
He lauded the country’s talent of musicians who have contributed to the popularization of its music, noting that it was no longer treated as ethnic or “world” music, but has crossed over into the mainstream in its own right as reggae.
Folk culture was manifested in religious experiences, he reiterated, and was testament to the long historical retentions of Africa, molded by slavery and colonialism in Jamaica. Describing Jamaica as one of the most churched countries in the world, Mr. Seaga pointed to the 2001 World Christian Encyclopedia which listed the island as having approximately 173 denominations in 5,000 congregations, noting that the indigenous revival cults were not included in the membership of established churches. At the same time, the country’s indigenous creativity also manifested itself in painting, ceramics, sculpture, dance, poetry, culinary and other art forms, he said. Mr. Seaga also spoke of the subject of humor juxtaposed into Jamaican folk culture, acknowledging the light-heartedness, the sense of humor that showed the cultural characteristics of earthy folk life.
Citing sports as an art form, Mr. Seaga mentioned that this was evident in cricket and football games played nationally. He described the cricket batsman’s motion with the bat as stylistic poetry, which sometimes commanded applause for the stroke play, moreso than the runs.
On the other hand, he described Jamaican footballers as somewhat reluctant team players, except at the most professional level. They can be described as individual artistes, capable of a ballet exhibition weaving a path through opponents.
Referring to traditional folk hero ‘Brer Anancy’ as central to Jamaica’s folklore, Mr. Seaga also noted that Anancy’s influence was readily recognized in business practices, evenso in the music industry, citing examples to illustrate his theory.
Mr. Seaga spoke of the Jamaican society as “a traditional cultural well-spring of historic wisdom, a cradle of heritage, the crucible of an entrapment of poverty from which has emerged artistic and athletic giants and the rewarding achievements of those who were forged by determination to overcome the hardships of life’s experiences.”
He was presented with the Distinguished Visitor Proclamation of Miami-Dade and Broward County by City Commissioners of both counties.
The event was moderated by Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board member, Marlon Hill, while Consul General Ricardo Allicock gave the opening remarks.
The presentation was the first in a series co-ordinated by Jamaica Awareness Incorporated, a South Florida cultural organization, in association with the Jamaican Diaspora Movement in the Southern USA.
Through the series, topics affecting the Caribbean community will be addressed using world-renowned scholars, according to President of Jamaica Awareness, Sydney Roberts.

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