John Canoe (Jonkonnu, JonKanoo) Dancers, Jamaica

Captioned, “French Set-Girls,” Belisario traces their origin to African and Creole enslaved people who came to Jamaica with their owners, escaping the revolt in St. Dominque. “The French Sets,” he writes, “are invariably observers of taste and decorum, considering it derogatory to dance elsewhere than in dwelling-houses, or within walled premises . . . . They have their Queen and allow male companions to join in their dances, during which two drums or ‘Tamboos’ are played, and an instrument shaken, called a ‘Shaka’ . . . .The tasteful style in which the French Girls tie their kerchiefs on their heads, has ever been the envy of the Creole [women] of Jamaica, who make ineffectual efforts to imitate it.”

The image shown here, as well as others of “John-Canoes,” was drawn from life by Belisario in 1836. This lithograph is one of 12 originally published in three parts, 4 plates at a time.

John Canoe (Jonkonnu, JonKanoo) Dancers, Jamaica, 1838; Image Reference Belisario01, as shown on, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.