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J'ouvert (/uv/) is a large street party held annually as part of Carnival in many Caribbean islands (primarily in the Lesser Antilles) and in areas where Caribbean peoples have immigrated.

J'ouvert is likely a gallicization of jou ouvè, the Antillean Creole French term meaning "dawn" or "daybreak" as this is the time at which the festival is typically held. [1]


J'ouvert is celebrated in many countries throughout the Caribbean. J'ouvert is also celebrated in many places outside the Caribbean as part of Carnival celebrations throughout the year, with the biggest celebrations happening in places around the world with large Caribbean ex-pat communities.[2][3][4]

Traditionally, the celebration involves calypso/soca bands and their followers dancing through the streets. The festival starts well before dawn and peaks a few hours after sunrise.[5]

Carnival was introduced to Trinidad by French settlers in 1783, a time of slavery.[6] Banned from the masquerade balls of the French, the enslaved people would stage their own mini-carnivals in their backyards — using their own rituals and folklore, but also imitating and sometimes mocking their masters’ behavior at the masquerade balls.[7]

The roots of Jouvert in Trinidad go back 200 years, with the arrival of French plantation owners. The French never colonised Trinidad, however elements of their culture remained. J’Ouvert evolved from the Canboulay festivals in the 1800’s, which were night time celebrations where the landowners dressed up and imitated the negres jardins (garden slaves). Following emancipation the newly freed slaves took over canboulay, now imitating their former masters imitating them.

Canboulay revellers, who carried lighted cane torches, were seen as a potential risk by the authorities, and the tension mounted leading to the Canboulay riots. It was eventually banned, and then was re established as Jouvert. The spectacular costumes represent characters and events from the history and folklore.

Moko Jumbie Bats, Bookmen, Baby dolls, jab molassie, devil mas are all traditional Carnival characters that capture the elements of the past, and continue to tell the story.

Barbados does not celebrate J'ouvert, but instead celebrates Foreday Morning, which is often likened to J'ouvert.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

"J'OUVERT" is the title of the 10th track of Brockhampton's 4th studio album, iridescence.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Allsopp, R. (1996). Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. 1. Kingston: Oxford University Press. p. 776. ISBN 0-198-66152-5.
  2. ^ "After Bloodshed, NYC Promises a Safer J'ouvert Festival" ABC News
  3. ^ "In pictures: Fifty years of the Notting Hill Carnival" BBC News
  4. ^ Caribana Wikipedia
  5. ^ "Up Close at Trinidad's Carnival" Smithsonian.com
  6. ^ "'Mama Dis is Mas': A Historical Overview of the Trinidad Carnival, 1783 – 1900" Archived 15 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine National Library and Information System Authority
  7. ^ "History of Carnival" Archived 2009-08-31 at the Wayback Machine All Ah We
  8. ^ Donaldson, Tara (11 August 2014). "How to Do Barbados Crop Over Like a Local". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  9. ^ "BROCKHAMPTON on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-09-20.

External links[edit]