Jonkonnu is one of the oldest dance forms in Jamaica which was performed on the three holidays allowed to the enslaved Africans in the English-speaking Caribbean – Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
Also referred to as “John Canoe” by the British, the dance steps had European and English elements mixed with African traditions. The more popular steps of the dance included jigs and polkas, open cut out, one drop and marching tune, among others.
Jonkonnu is a band of masquerades usually performed in towns and villages at Christmas time. The characters included the King and Queen, Cow Head, Horse Head, Pitchy Patchy, red Indians and Belly Woman. All those are costumed worn by the men or women. Wearing a mask was one of those things that brought a thrill to those who wore them. In the US you have Halloween.
Although it was very entertaining for some at the time I thought it was very frightening, and to think that even now wearing a mask is still very frightening.
Although then it was all entertainment, people are still wearing a mask, the question is why?
One of our greatest fears is that if we show our true selves, the world will say, “Oh, it’s just you.” But being just you is actually the best and most perfect thing you could ever be. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” Or if you are interested in the spiritual perspective, the psalmist wrote, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. A quote from Psychology today.
We are not going to be focusing too much and the why, but on the reasons, we do not need to wear a mask, even though we were socialized to wear them. One of the main reason we should not be wearing a mask is that we will never reach our true potential in life if we continue to think we are not enough. We have to bring all of who we are to what we do. There are numerous people who have our same skillsets, or maybe an even better one. But none of these people brings the same personality, creativity, and spirit to the job that you do. We wear a mask at work or at church and even in our community because of the perception we have of ourselves.
The second reason is a relief. It is exhausting to live an inauthentic life. You put on a mask or two or ten, then take a few off, then put a couple more on … It’s exhausting! Worst of all, you start forgetting who you really are. As comedian and actress Fanny Brice explained, “Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?”
The final reason is unless we expose all of who we are we will never experience unconditional love. This is hard but I went to a funeral recently and discovered that the wife of the deceased was surprised at some of the things said at the funeral, she did not know who her husband was. How she could love someone that was a mystery to her. He did things he was not proud about and hid these things from her, but if someone cannot love you for who you are then they do not deserve you.
We were not born to wear a mask, but as we grow and learn we are told you will not succeed in life without wearing a mask and this is really not true, we have been brainwashed.
Your awareness, openness and authentic understanding of who are you could inspire someone else in recognising that they do not need to wear a mask. Do the introspection and see the mask that you are wearing, commit to taking it off… it is scary I just can imagine, but you will love yourself for it.