It originated from the Congo tribes in Africa when the enslaved arrived in Jamaica in the 1850s. Kumina is a combination of dance and music rituals performed to appease the ancestors.
A feature of Kumina is the authenticity of the language and dances of the performers. The traditional dance was perfected when the immigrants from Congo settled in St. Thomas.
Historians said Kumina is a way the enslaved from Congo expressed themselves religiously and connected with their roots. The traditional dance has stood the test of time and survived influences from modernity as a result of its connection with customs and traditions.
Another reason Kumina enjoys patronage among many Jamaicans is that it is believed that Kumina dances can help one to win court cases or woo a lover one has been pursuing without success.
The traditional dance is usually performed at burials, memorial services, or wakes but it isn’t limited to moments of bereavement but happy times as well.
In some circles, it is considered art among Jamaicans and is performed as entertainment by Kumina groups.
Despite these positives, Kumina is also perceived as a form of spiritual activity because of the trance some performers claim they find themselves in while performing it. This has been dismissed by die-hard Kumina fanatics who describe it as another attempt to dim its appreciation among Jamaicans.
Ephraim Bartley, one of the advocates of the traditional dance, said Kumina has been used for the good of society, that notwithstanding, it is sometimes abused by those grateful to learn the art and its power. He observed that some people have been healed as a result of participating in the Kumina dance.
Kumina has no restrictions on which gender can assume the lead role in performing the dance. The men are referred to as king or captain while the women are known as the queen or mother.
The role of the leader is to lead the chorus of members who are in trance in the rhythms, songs of a variety of spirits and dances.
Jamaican writers Stephane and Estime added that the instruments used during Kumina performance are bongo drums and shakers. They said there are types of clothing that are used during the traditional dance. The women wear turbans on their heads while the men wear turbans. The colors of the clothing are usually a mixture of red and other assorted colors but it must be traditional.
There are various adaptations to how Kumina is performed but it has its own rituals. Sometimes, people would either call up spirits, drink rum or spray it out their mouths for spiritual reasons, according to Stephane and Estime.
Some Christian denominations have adopted the Kumina dance on the basis that it connects Jamaicans irrespective of their religion to their ancestral roots.