Tuesday, January 12, 2010

From the Culture Capital of Belize........Dangriga

Charikanari 2 from Belize Vacation on Vimeo.

Charikanari may have originated as a spinoff from the Joncunu Festival. Descriptions of 17th Century performers mention two forms of dressing: the beautiful, presumably like our present day Joncunu dancers and the grotesque described as wearing cowhead attire with real horns worn over a head wrap and a wire screen mask. Today's Charikanari "cow" and "hunter man" surrounded by a group of masked dancers offer hours of entertainment to the young spectators who amuse themselves by teasing the players.

Performers go from house to house entertaining the community with antics. Boys and men dress as women while wearing a masks and dance. The "Two Foot Cow" taunts children who tease him with "moo moo, no tail".

 Charikanari is performed in the Garifuna communities during Christmas, up to the 6th of January (or the weekend closest). It is believed to be a spin off from another festival, Wanaragua

It is a mimed dance where a "hunter man" is looking for the "Two Foot Cow". It is like a play unfolding  with the dancers doing antics and the Two Foot Cow is teased and in turn taunts the spectators. It can be funny to see how the cow dances and shakes his bottom while kids try to smack him and run.

 Wanaragua - John Kunnu 1 from Belize Vacation on Vimeo.

Inside the ring of onlookers is a loose circle of dancers awaiting their individual turns to perform, beginning with the youngest. With forearms extended, the incessant hypnotic movement of the dancer's feet match the rhythm and pattern of the two drummers. But it is the dancer's movement that dictates the drummers' beat and not the other way around. Paying keen attention, the drummers know when to pause, when to change the rhythm, and how to keep the flow. Each dancer brings his own unique style and flavor so the dancing is not repetitious. Audience participation and approval is sought with displays of grace, trademark moves and the occasional comical gestures.

Wanaragua also known as John Kunnu, this masked dance was once performed throughout the Caribbean at Christmas time, one of the few events during the year when slaves were free to dance and party for an extended period of time. Dressed with fanciful headdresses, knee rattles, and in whiteface, John Kunnu dancers would visit the houses of their master and receive foods and drinks in return for riotous entertainment.

In Belize and other areas of the Garifuna domain, parties of John Kunnu dancers roam from houseyard to houseyard, collecting payments during the Christmas season. Wanaragua masks were once made of basketry but are now cleverly constructed of metal screen and painted with a stylish face.

- St. John's College, Belizean Studies Resource Center


Therese R. said...

This is fascinating!

As a child I heard about these dances, but growing up in a creole community never got the chance to see them. After migrating well the chance to see them was more reduced.

Thank you Linda for this and all the other ways you have kept us informed and in touch with Belizean culture and traditions.

Linda Crawford said...

Therese, thank you for visiting my blog.

I too used to hear about John Kunnu dance, but never got to see it until a couple of years ago. Our creole community have so much to learn from and about the Garinagu.