Jamaica’s Intangible Cultural Heritage : Traditional Craft Work in Jamaica

Art & Craft
Art & Craft

Our Jamaican Cultural heritage entails our knowledge, practices, and most of all how we express ourselves and portray our talents and skills. These sentiments are passed down from generation to generation, and are practiced by persons in our wider communities, giving them a sense of identity with the urge to continue on this path.
The Jamaican Cultural Heritage covers many forms. One such aspect is the traditional craft work which includes pottery, straw, woodwork, needle work, crochet, costume jewellery and tin-Smiting

These types of craft work play a very important role as many Jamaicans depend on their skills in this area as a livelihood. Like our Jamaican people these craft comes in different forms with the main materials used for production being the thatch palm, screw pine and the jippi-jappa pine which is mainly used for hats.

Many of the techniques in traditional craft are passed down through a special system known as the rote. Wood carving is one source of our Jamaican culture which is very much alive.

This skill is not formally taught even though the uniqueness and beauty shown is very much appreciated by the target market both locally and internationally. Even though persons believe that these wood carvings are not appealing to the eyes, carvers such as Lancelot Bryan and others deny this notion and think highly of the work they do. These productions are made from trees such as the Lignum vitae, blue mahoe, cedar, and elm all of which represents spiritual/physical attributes. The inspiration of this craft came from the Makonde craftsmen from Tanzania and Mozambique, some of who visited in the island in 1974 to host various workshops and in collaboration with the Government and the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica.
Another of our craft is that of the straw work. These traditions that were originated in West Africa has rich local heritage. Thatch, sisal, silver thatch and jippi-jappa are the materials used to make these products. The hats produced are known to be highly appreciated as they are worn by tourists who visit as a means of shade from the Caribbean sunshine and they are also worn by students at a very popular traditional High School on the northern part of the Island (Westwood High School).

The African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica interviewed senior citizens who were involved in the work of traditional culture complimented and recognised them for their continued support in keeping our heritage on stream. This was done by having these interviews catalogued and transcribed, creating an archive of oral history on several aspects of Jamaica’s life and culture known as the Memory Bank.
Sky writings, No.89,October/November 1993:20-23