Unveiling the Fierce Spirit of Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival

The Intriguing Jab Molassie

Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival, an explosion of color, music, and cultural richness, introduces revelers to a character that embodies the raw, untamed spirit of the celebration – The Jab Molassie. This carnival figure, shrouded in mystery and draped in molasses-soaked attire, captivates onlookers with its fierce and enigmatic presence.

The Jab Molassie, derived from the French patois "Jab Molassie" meaning "Devil of Molasses," is a symbol deeply rooted in the nation's history and heritage. This character represents the fusion of African and French traditions, reflecting the resilience and strength of those who resisted oppression during Trinidad and Tobago's colonial past.
Adorned in torn and tattered clothing, the Jab Molassie's costume is a testament to the character's rebellious spirit. Molasses or grease covers its body, creating an imposing and intimidating visage that commands attention. The Jab's appearance is not just a visual spectacle; it is a living embodiment of the struggles faced by the ancestors, a testament to overcoming adversity.

The Jab's menacing appearance is accentuated by its commanding horns, curving upward like the triumphant symbol of defiance. These horns, often crafted from lightweight materials and adorned with vibrant colors, add an element of mysticism to the character, creating an aura of otherworldly power. They are a visual representation of the Jab's connection to spiritual forces and ancestral energy.
Some Jab Molassies are bound by ropes or chains, while others create a pulsating rhythm from biscuit and pitch oil pans, accompanied by a haunting whistle that amplifies their performance. They frolic madly, leaping and bounding, hoping to instill fear and earn a few dollars. Onlookers often choose to "Pay the Devil," to avaoid contact with them.

What sets the Jab Molassie apart is its uninhibited dance, a primal and energetic display that mirrors the character's fierce essence. As the Jab moves through the Carnival procession, its dance becomes a cathartic release, symbolizing the triumph of freedom and individuality over constraint. The rhythmic beats of calypso and soca music propel the Jab forward, creating an electrifying atmosphere that permeates the crowds.
The molasses-soaked costume of the Jab Molassie, while visually striking, carries profound cultural significance. It symbolizes the connection to the sugarcane fields of the past, where molasses was a byproduct of the sugar-making process. This tie to Trinidad and Tobago's agricultural history adds layers of meaning to the character, reinforcing its link to the nation's roots.

The Jab Molassie's role extends beyond a mere carnival character; it is a living embodiment of the concept of 'playing mas.' In this transformative experience, individuals temporarily shed societal norms and embrace their innermost desires and fears. The Jab, with its fierce demeanor, encourages participants to confront challenges head-on and emerge stronger on the other side.

As the Jab Molassie navigates the carnival crowds, leaving a trail of excitement and intrigue, it symbolizes the audacious spirit of a nation that refuses to be subdued. In the rhythmic heartbeat of Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival, the Jab Molassie stands as a testament to the fierce and unyielding resilience that defines this extraordinary cultural celebration.
Musings: Zari Kerr
Photography: Luigi Creese
Artist: Shurnecia Walker
Location: KEYZ Studios Ltd.

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