David Lee: Bahamian Culture

It is said that many people from all over the world have influenced the culture of the Bahamas including Lucayan Indians, British, African, Haitians, Turks, Caicos, Americans, even Canadians. There are many theories on who the first inhabitants were, but it was the Lucayan Indians who Columbus first encountered when he arrived at the Bahamas in 1492. No matter who inhabited the islands first, all have had and impact on the Bahamian culture through the years.

The Georgian style of some of the public buildings was brought from the loyalists (1783-1785). This style can be seen today in the Nassau Public Library. The frame for the first church was shipped in from England, but the one we will see was designed by a loyalist and is called St. Matthew’s Church. It is Anglican. The houses come from West African roots by way of the slave trade. African Americans made many of the houses in a “shotgun” style, one bedroom wide with a porch.

The education system is modeled after Great Britain. The children are required to go to school from age 5 to 16. There are now preschools that are catered to 4 year olds and there are also post high school opportunities both on the islands and abroad.

Many religions have come, gone, and left lasting impressions. It is my understanding that the two churches we will come in contact with are the Methodist Council of the Caribbean and the Americas and the Methodist Church of the Bahamas. All but one of the Churches in Eleuthera are Methodist Church of Bahamas.

Bahamian food consists of peas, rice, grits, flour pap, meal gruel, rice, pelua, okra, foo foo, corned fish and conchs, fried meats and fish, dried foods for preservation, tropical fruits, various seafoods, johnnycakes. Most influence came from the loyalist plantation lifestyle. The official alcohol of the Bahamas is rum, adopted from Haiti and Jamaica. Bahamians put their own twist on some native drinks including the Yellow Bird, Bahama Mama, Goombay Smash.

Junkanoo happens the day after Christmas and New Years Day, and one other time during the summer on a different Island. The biggest parade is in Nassau. This tradition was birthed when the slaves were given a holiday during the Christmas season. They celebrated with song and dance. This tradition was carried on even after they were set free and still continues today.

The official language is English. Although we may have some troubles understanding most phrases. An example; “I’se fine sar, tank de Lawd, but dis mawning I done took a check, an’ now I tink I’se got de feeber”. Another hallmark is taking the “h” off when needed and putting the “h” on when not necessary. Also the V’s and W’s are often interchangeable. The dialect tends to vary island to island.