During the Christmas and New Year holidays the local Garifuna community of Dangriga, Belize takes to the streets to enjoy the Jankunu and Charikanari dancers. The celebrations, dancing and drumming at this time of the year is one of those undiscovered secrets of Belize.
The Wanaragua Jankunu Festival (also known as the John Canoe) sees masked and costumed dancers parading the streets and roaming from house to house accompanied by the beat of traditional drummers.
The costumes consist of dark colored pants, white shirts with cross ribbons, pink masks and African style wrap head dress. The dancers wear leggings with bands of hundreds of small sea shells. The shells shake with the beat of the traditional Primero and Segundo drums.
The music and drumming is actually a competition between various Jankunu groups from the local area. The Jankunu is one of the few dances where the Primero (lead) drummer follows the dancer’s movements, and not the dancer dancing to the beat of the drum. This is against all normal dance practice where the dancer follows the tempo of the music. The dance is fast paced, fun and entertaining to watch.
The other dance that you can expect to see over the Christmas and New Year holiday is the Charikanari. This masked dance is a dramatization of a hunting scene where a "hunter man" is looking for the "Two Foot Cow". The dancers wear cowhead attire with real horns worn over a head wrap and a wire screen mask. Like the Jankunu, dancers and drummers roam from house to house entertaining the community with antics. Boys and men dress as women while wearing the masks and dance. The "Two Foot Cow" taunts children who tease him.
These colourful and competitive dance festivals are an amazing insight into the local Garifuna culture of Dangriga, Belize.