However, it is the blacks and slaves who became the dominant cultural force as they suffered and resisted the harsh conditions of forced labour. After the abolition of slavery, Chinese and Indian migrants were transported to the island as indentured workers, bringing with them ideas from the Far East.
The tradition of graphic arts began with indigenous Taino sculpting and pottery and has continued with the evolution of the African tradition. Jamaica has a long tradition of pottery, including items used in everyday domestic life, which are referred to as yabbah. There is a West African tradition of basket and straw mat weaving, seashell art, bead making, embroidery, sewing, and wood carving.
The music of Jamaica includes Jamaican folk music and many popular genres, such as mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub music, dancehall, ska jazz, reggae fusion and related styles. Jamaica’s music culture is a fusion of elements from the United States (rhythm and blues and soul), Africa, and neighboring Caribbean islands such as Trinidad and Tobago (calypso and soca).
Reggae is especially popular through the international fame of Bob Marley. Jamaican music’s influence on music styles in other countries includes the practice of toasting, which was brought to New York City and evolved into rapping. British genres as Lovers rock and jungle music are also influenced by Jamaican music.
Jamaican clothes are very colorful and vibrant. The traditional costume is a beautiful outfit of red and white cotton material which is worn for galas, holidays and the Independence day, the 10th of August.
These garments are made of Calico, a sort of cotton cloth locally handmade. The blouse is usually short sleeved because of the weather and the skirt is a quadrille like dress popular in the Caribbean islands called by them bandana skirt in Jamaica. The red head tie is draped in a particular way.
The colors of Jamaica (black, green and yellow) are also made into costumes for different occasions.
Jamaican cuisine includes a mixture of cooking techniques, flavors, spices and influences from the indigenous people on the island of Jamaica, and the Spanish, British, Africans, Indian and Chinese who have inhabited the island.
It is also influenced by the crops introduced into the island from tropical Southeast Asia. Jamaican cuisine includes various dishes from the different cultures brought to the island with the arrival of people from elsewhere. Other dishes are novel or a fusion of techniques and traditions.
In addition to ingredients that are native to Jamaica, many foods have been introduced and are now grown locally. A wide variety of seafood, tropical fruits and meats are available.
Some Jamaican cuisine dishes are variations on the cuisines and cooking styles brought to the island from elsewhere. These are often modified to incorporate local produce. Others are novel and have developed locally.
Popular Jamaican dishes include curry goat, fried dumplings, ackee and salt fish (cod) — the national dish of Jamaica — fried plantain, “jerk”, steamed cabbage and “rice and peas” (pigeon peas or kidney beans). Jamaican cuisine has been adapted by African, Indian, British, French, Spanish, Chinese influences. Jamaican patties and various pastries and breads are also popular as well as fruit beverages and Jamaican rum.
The official language is English, reflecting the British colonial heritage, but even in official contexts a number of creole dialects that reflect class, place, and social context are spoken.
Indians, Chinese, Jews, and Europeans brought aspects of their written tradition, yet current literary works are overwhelmingly African Jamaican. The oral tradition draws on several West African-derived sources, including the griot tradition; the trickster story form; the use of proverbs, aphorisms, riddles, and humor in the form of the “big lie”; and origin stories. The 1940s saw the birth of a movement toward the creation of a “yard” (Creole) literature.
Architecture reflects a synthesis of African, Spanish, and baroque British influences. Traces of pre-Columbian can be seen in the use of palm fronds thatch and mud walls (daub). Styles, materials, size, and furnishings differ more by class than by ethnicity. Since much of Caribbean life takes place outdoors, this has influenced the design and size of buildings, particularly among the rural poor.
The Spanish style is reflected in the use of balconies, wrought iron, plaster and brick facades, arched windows and doors, and high ceilings. British influence, with wooden jalousies, wide porches, and patterned railings and fretwork, dominated urban architecture in the colonial period.
Plantation houses were built with stone and wood, and town houses typically were built with wood, often on a stone or cement foundation. The kitchen, washroom, and “servant” quarters were located separately or at the back of the main building.
The traditional black peasant dwelling is a two-room rectangular structure with a pitched thatched roof and walls of braided twigs covered with whitewashed mud or crude wooden planks. These dwellings are starting to disappear, as they are being replaced by more modern dwellings with cinder block walls and a corrugated metal roof.
Sport in Jamaica is a significant part of Jamaican culture. The most popular sports are those imported from Britain. The most popular sport is cricket; other popular sports include association football, athletics, and netball. Other sports such as rugby league and rugby union are considered growing sports.
Independence Day is celebrated on the first Monday in August. Other noteworthy holidays are Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, and National Heroes Day, which is celebrated the third Monday in October. Chinese New Year is celebrated.
Since the 1960s, the economy, which previously had been based on large-scale agricultural exportation, has seen considerable diversification. Mining, manufacturing, and services are now major economic sectors.
The predominant sector for Jamaica is their service economy. That is, the country derives more than half of its GDP (gross domestic product) from tourism.
The main international trading partners are the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Caribbean Economic Community. The major imports are consumer goods, construction hardware, electrical and telecommunication equipment, food, fuel, machinery, and transportation equipment. The major exports are bauxite and alumina, apparel, sugar, bananas, coffee, citrus and citrus products, rum, cocoa, and labor.