Colours of Slavery: A photo essay on J’ouvert

Mapline of J'ouvert

This year the West Indian Day parade was wild and full of frenzy with colors on revelers’ costumes, floats and their faces as they gathered along Flatbush avenue as early as 4 a.m. The lilt of steel drums and cowbells mingled with the ting-a-ling of spoon players in the distance.

J’ouvert is a cultural parade festival which is celebrated by Caribbean and Africans in different parts of the world.

Besides being known for the traditional music of calypso/soca bands, the festival has a visual appeal to it too. The usage of colors signifies the part of struggle that the caribbean community had suffered during the period of slavery. The emotions that are rucksack-ed for years are given an outlet on this particular day.

The West Indian American Day Carnival Parade is filled with sentiments of equality, happiness and diversity. The colors signify the struggle that the caribbean community had suffered during slavery and colonialism, according to organizers of J’Ouvert, the pre-parade event..

As the musicians warm up in the distance, participants in J’Ouvert are already spraying colors all over each others bodies and faces.


Brooklyn’s J’ouvert celebration started at 6 a.m. at Grand Army Plaza this year, two hours later than previous years for security reasons.

The co-founder of J’Ouvert City International, Hazel John, said that “J’ouvert is a time of.. when you express joy in a jovial manner.” She added that it is done by using the expression of “African ancestry” and is an aspect of “maintaining and keeping our culture alive.”

The number of participants of parade was down this year as a result of dense security but right after 6 a.m., people were beginning to celebrate, ,spraying various colors - white, red and green. The colors used in the parade were similar to the national flags of the various Caribbean and African regions.

“It’s a heritage down when we started from Africa, it continued till the Caribbean; the Caribbean held on to it in America,” said Wendy Malone, a person of Caribbean region, who was a part of J’ouvert.


In the parade people threw white powder at each other’s face, a sign of resistance during slavery. But the face painting ritual is not limited to white powder or colors of flags to show that show national heritage and pride. It’s also about iconically using the different colors that illustrate other forms of oppression that the community faced. 


“In the modern Caribbean face painting has taken new forms like competition, to bring wages, to promote tourism but fundamentally it is to celebrate an open expression to be free from bondage,” said Lomarsh Roopnarine, a professor of Caribbean and Latin American Studies at Jackson State University in Mississippi.

“In some ways, the white paintings against black skin was mimicry of the white masters as being subdued by a stronger black color…..symbolism,” he added.

Prof. Roopnarine said the tradition continues because: “The ritual is an outlet, a release for your people to learn about their culture from practical standpoint as opposed to read and learn about themselves in the classroom and from others unlike themselves. Parents and older folks encourage face painting among the young because it reminds them of home, a valuable facet of their culture which should not be lost in the immigrant scheme of achieving one’s goal.”

Taboo festivals of India

Festival: Taboo Festivals of India


Walking barefoot in a temple seems to be troublesome when a sudden gravel pops up under your foot? Well Thimithi or firewalking is a festival which is just not the ‘average indian’ festival. A Hindu festival originating in Tamil Nadu, South India, Thimithi is celebrated during the month of Aipasi (or Aippasi) of the Tamil calendar,which comes between the months of October and November. The festival is not only limited to India but also is celebrated in Singapore.

The Thimithi festival is celebrated in honour of Draupadi from Mahabharta. When Pandavas lost Draupadi in gambling and went on a war with Duryodhana, she walked through a bed of fire to prove her purity after the war and came out as fresh as a flower. The festival is celebrated to commemorate this event.

Kesh lochan:

Shaving your head might sound just not the cool thing to do.but then some still have the guts to do it. What if just somebody is asked to pull their hair out by hands? Yes! you heard it right . In Jainism, saints are often seen plucking their own hair with their hand after receiving ‘diksha’ - a form of consecration for a religious ceremony.

Just imagine the amount of pain of plucking every single strand of hair.

Bani Festival:

Bani festival is known to have existed for more than a hundred years. It comprises ritual of beating each other with ‘lathis’ or sticks. Celebrated at Devaragattu Temple in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, more than 100 people gather at this temple to hit each other at midnight.

It’s common to find people in blood stained clothes and life threatening injuries, after the completion of the ritual. The festival is celebrated to commemorate killing of a demon by Mala-Malleswara (Lord Shiva).


Thaipusam is a festival of odd piercings with hooks, skewers and lances (also known as vel).

It is celebrated in honor of Lord Murugan for destroying the evil army of Tarakasura. After a 48 days fast, many devotees start piercing their bodies with weird designed traditional hooks.

It is believed that after piercing the followers enter into transcendental state, which as per ‘bhakts’ provides them the energy to commence the festival along with the background staccato of drumming and chanting.  


Well the most common suffrage after being trampled by a cow are-- fracture, herniated spinal cord or losing life, but some people in Andhra Pradesh are all set to ignore these.

With onset to break records --and bones-- around the beginning of the year, January 23. On this day, the villagers fight against their cattles which are decorated with flowers and other objects.

The festival has received a lot of heat from PETA and other animal rights organization who strive to correct this form of animal abuse.


Some of who have heard about Muharram have no clue what it actually means and how it is celebrated.

In simple context, it means ‘Forbidden’ ; Muharram begins with a ten-day fast that ends with the Day of Ashura (Tenth day).

At this day, Muslims from Shia community perform self-flagellation to commemorate the death of martyrdom Hussein, grandson of Prophet Muhammad.