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At right is a photo I took of some banana leaves blowing in the breeze when I was last in Saint Mary, Jamaica. There is nothing better than just feeling the sea breeza and listtening to the night...

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About Jamaica Proverbs

"The genius, wit and spirit of a nation are discovered in its proverbs."– Francis Bacon

Jamaican Creole, or Patois, is a blend of many roots. As the language most commonly spoken on the 81-mile long island amid the Caribbean sea, it is representative of its people's cultural melt. The Arawak and Carib Indians were the original natives of Jamaica, but the Spanish explorers extinguished the gentle Arawak people within 40 years of Columbus's first visit to the island. Today, Jamaicans are descendents of Portuguese and Panamanian explorers, Spanish, French and Middle Eastern immigrants, as well as English colonists and landowners, East Indian and Chinese indentured workers, and the dominant culture of West Africans brought to the island as slaves from the 1600s to 1834 when slavery was finally made illegal.

"There is no other art so thoroughly assimilated to the Jamaican people of today as this of the aphorism, and none more commonly employed in everyday experience."
- Martha Warren Beckwith, Jamaica Proverbs, 1925

In the past, the sayings and proverbs were integral to Jamaican life and language. But the ceaseless political and economical exploitation has caused a vast diaspora. Now more Jamaicans live off of the island than on it, and the old culture is fading as tourism becomes the main means of support for most people. In addition, cell phone communication is rapidly replacing the kernels of wisdom passed down from the elders, the old African way of coming to terms with major problems. Thus proverbs and sayings are being forgotten. In the next generation they may be gone altogether.

I am married to Jamaica, both figuratively and literally. My own ancestors came to the island in the 1780s and when I first visited it in the 1980s, I felt a strong urge to record the music and art and storytelling that I heard in the hills of St. Mary. Jamaica is truly the place where I came of age, and the place where I entered womanhood and started a West Indian family of my own. This collection is dedicated to its people and the preservation of their enduring distinction as a world culture.

- Mariah Fox, April 2006

Sources:

Landscape with Faces, by John Hern (from Ian Fleming introduces Jamaica)

Jamaica Proverbs, compiled by Martha Warren Beckwith (Vassar College Fieldwork in Folklore) 1925

Jamaica Negro Proverrbs and Sayings by Izzet Anderson, MD & Frank Cundall, FSA (The Institute of Jamaica) 1927

Jamaica Proverbs, compiled by Al Cleary (Brainbuster Publications) 1971

Jamaican Sayings, by G. Lewellyn Watson (Florida A & M University Press/Tallahassee) 1991