MONTEGO BAY — Jamaicans are expected to descend in droves on the Seville Heritage Park in St. Ann on July 31 for the annual Emancipation Jubilee.
The exciting and colourful event, which pays tribute to the African ancestors, has become a staple on the national events calendar, attracting thousands of Jamaicans and visitors to the island.
Organised by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), this year's celebration will offer an interesting mix of Afro-centric cultural forms, gospel music, and the best of reggae music, with activities to run until Emancipation morning, Monday, August 1.
"This year marks the 15th staging of the event and I think it is something that all Jamaicans look forward to at this time of the year, especially the St. Ann parishioners, because they have totally embraced it," says Event Co-ordinator, Joan Seagears.
She tells JIS News that the event has grown since its inception in 1997 to command pride of place alongside other popular activities such as Reggae Sumfest and Jazz Festival.
With a bumper crowd of more than 5,000 persons expected this year, she says that plans are well underway for a successful event. "We are looking forward to showcasing Jamaica's culture and heritage in its entirety so that the young, middle-age and older folks will be able to benefit from the educational aspect as well as the entertainment aspect," she says.
Under the theme: 'Let the Drums Talk', the year's festival will feature the drums, as an integral part of the liberation process and in the development of Jamaican music.
The drums will begin to "talk" from as early as 6:00 p.m., when the gates open at Seville, with some seven drumming groups, which will be strategically placed at the site, showing off their skills.
"At this time, persons will get the opportunity to interact with the different drumming groups, ask questions and understand the importance of the drums in our history as a people," informs Mrs. Seagears, who is also a former Operations Manager at the heritage park.
She says that the African retention in Jamaica's rich heritage will be showcased through special performances from the Manchioneal Cultural Group, Port Morant Kumina group, Islington Dinki Mini, the St. Ann and Stella Maris Dance Ensemble, among others. The world-travelled Nigerian Dance Troupe will appear on the event stage for the first time to regale the audience with their energetic and captivating routine.
The performances pause at midnight for a wreath laying exercise to mark that day in 1834, when the freedom that the African ancestors had long fought for, had finally come.
Following the ceremony, attention returns to centre stage, with a concert featuring acclaimed reggae artistes such as Tarrus Riley, Derrick Morgan, Leroy Sibbles, Voice Mail and Unique Vision Band. Lovers of Gospel music will not be left out of the mix, as artistes such as the popular Sister Scully and Jabez will be performing.
Patrons can also look forward to the traditional free hot chocolate throughout the night. A new feature of the Jubilee this year is a market, where ground provisions will be on sale.
Meanwhile, residents of St. Ann are looking forward to the event. Adrian Henry from Bamboo tells JIS News that he has been attending Emancipation Jubilee for the past three years and he finds it to be educational as well as entertaining.
"I have to say that the event teaches a lot and persons, especially young people, are exposed to a wealth of information about Jamaica's heritage and culture. The event means a lot to me because it helps me to truly accept myself as a proud Jamaican, knowing that we are a free people," he says.
"When I take my children to Emancipation Jubilee, I make sure that they bring along a note book and their pen to write down interesting facts," says Paulette Dwyer of Ocho Rios. "I might not be able to teach them everything about our culture and heritage so when they go to Emancipation Jubilee they seek to increase their knowledge there," she notes.
Friends Jessica Duhaney and Suzanne Richards, who are visiting from Florida, planned their vacation around Emancipation Jubilee. The Jamaican nationals suggest that the event be promoted internationally so that more Jamaicans, who are living abroad, will become aware and support it.
"I saw Emancipation Jubilee 2011 advertised on YouTube and with all the excitement it promises to bring, I decided to come and I invited my friend to come along," says Ms. Dehaney.
Mrs. Richards says she is happy to celebrate Emancipation in Jamaica. "We do not get the chance to celebrate like this in Florida so I am anticipating a wonderful event and when I return, I will be sharing the experience with my friends and fellow Jamaicans so that they can plan to visit for next year's staging," she tells JIS News.
Tickets for the Seville Emancipation Jubilee are $1,000 for adults and $500 for children at the gate.
Major sponsors are the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), CVM Communications Group, UNESCO Kingston cluster office for the Caribbean, Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort and The Gleaner.
By Aldeen Campbell, JIS Reporter