As we went to work on Monday, August 8, the Grenadian Jab Jab Nation took over for J’ouvert morning. Yes, I know another carnival and mas. Truth be told, if I had the money I’d be at every carnival in the Caribbean but what Soca-loving carnival junkie girl wouldn’t? Every carnival has a different twist but what has really been catching my eye is the greasy, oily, sometimes disturbing and gruesome Jab Jab. Grenadian Spice Mas typically takes place in the beginning of August and the Spice Island definitely takes it up a notch.
You may ask what is a Jab Jab and the answer is quite simple. Jab is the French patois for Diable (devil) and in Grenadian culture, a Jab Jab is “devil, devil” or “double-devil.” Jab in English means to strike with quick short blows, which is an aspect of the Jab Jab masquerader. Typically his or her head head is adorned with long devil horns, body draped with ropes, chains, and sometimes snakes if they really want to embrace the devilish spirit. If you don’t want to get “attacked”, one has to “pay di devil” or else be jabbed with ropes and chains. I am not sure what the payment is but of course, like all mas in the Caribbean, it is solely for entertainment and a part of history and tradition.
Lets not forget the paint and oil and how it got started. The Jab Jab, Jab Molassie (Trinidad) or Lanse Kod (Haiti) are all similar because this is the commemoration of their freedom. Before the emancipation of slavery, as most of you know, the slaves were not allowed to partake in carnival celebration. After emancipation, they were able to take part in the masquerade and began using, Cannes Brûlées or “burnt cane” to paint themselves to become “as black as slaves.” In Trinidad and Grenada, the Jab Molassie and Jab Jab symbolized the brutal system of slavery and their emancipation that came after. They wanted to recreate the torture they went through and also mocked their slave owners by carrying whips and pitchforks. In present day culture, most use stale molasses, tar, grease, mud, powder or even paint if you don’t want to clog up your drains. I just want to know how they wash it all off?
Some of the pictures are quite the sight to see, for example, the pig in the stroller, or the Jab Jab holding a bucket of worms. The jury is still deliberating on why and when they started this custom so please feel free to educate me, as I am dying to know. There will be some who may not agree with certain customs of the J’ouvert in Grenada and yes, it is definitely mind-boggling to say the least. I am not sure if I’ll be oiling up and playing a “Wicked Jab” anytime soon but I love learning about unique traditions throughout the Caribbean.