Pic of the Week: A Kumina Ritual in Alligator Head, Jamaica

October 21, 2016


Photographer: Martei Korley
Location: Alligator Head, Portland, Jamaica

Pic of the Week was one of the original LargeUp features:ย A series of dispatches from co-founder, creative director and chief photographer Martei Korley. Somewhere along the line, it got put on hold. Starting today, we’re bringing it back. Each Friday morning, we’ll share a different image illuminating the richness of the Caribbean experience. Expect culture, music, tradition, food, family, fashion, agriculture โ€” the full breadth of things.ย 

Kumina is a religion that developed in Jamaica among a small community of Bantu immigrants from the Congo, during the post-emancipation era. It is generally practiced on the East Coast of the island, particularly in the parish of St. Thomas, where indentured workers from the Congo first landed sometime around the 1850s.

Kumina is considered to be one of the most purely African religious expressions practiced in Jamaica, surviving in a form largely undiluted by Christianity and Western culture. The dances associated with Kumina have come to be seen as an intrinsically Jamaican artform, performed for entertainment by cultural groups dedicated to maintaining its traditions and, since 1971, Jamaica’s National Dance Theatre Company. Many Jamaicans associate Kumina rituals with wakes, burials or memorial services, but they can be performed for any number of reasons, often to give strength to things like marriages or business ventures. These rituals can involve singing, dancing, drumming and sacrificial offerings โ€” the combined effect being an atmosphere favorable for spiritual possession, or mayal, as it’s called within Kumina.

In this scene, a group of Kumina practitioners takes part in a traditional ritual during a private soirรฉe in Alligator Head, in the parish of Portland. Fire carried by the celebrants and a glow from the moon combine to create unusual lighting conditions, adding a suitably mystical quality to the photo. Is the supernatural at work here? You be the judge.

See more Pic of the Week features here.