Weavers * Artists * Musicians
Miz Curline Higgs' workspace on Bay Street
The art of straw work weaving is alive and well on Harbour Island and North Eleuthera. These baskets, hats, dolls and mats are made to be sold in the local shops and straw markets of Nassau, Freeport and overseas. Miz Curline Higgs, Miss Eva Mather, Sister Sarah Johnson and Miz Jacquelyn Percentie of Harbour Island are a few of several local artisans who have mastered the art of weaving these beautiful items, and who continue to sponsor up-and-coming younger weavers from the neighboring settlements as they continue the tradition.
To create weavable strips, the straw is taken from the top of the palm frond. The frond top is cut and stripped, then hung from trees for up to four days. These are then laid flat to dry for another four days. The fully-dried strips of pond top are cut into thinner strips. Before the strips can be used, they are soaked in salt water for an hour and then wrapped in cloth for another hour. This makes the straw pliable and useful for weaving. The straw is wrapped around the stalk from the pond top and woven into various household items such as hampers, picnic baskets, cake tops, place mats, napkin holders and even baby carriers. The more popular items are the picnic baskets and place mats.
Local Galleries ...
Princess Street Gallery, Charles Carey
Briland Brushstrokes, Harvey Roberts
BRILAND MUSIC, YESTERDAY & TODAY
From the musical stylings of yesterday's Diatones and the Coral Sandpipers to today's Courage Band, Native Sons, Hogheads, The Funk Gang [aka The Brilanders], James Major and Ithalia Johnson, the music of Harbour Island tells the compelling story of its history. Whether playing reggae, merengue, pop, calypso, soca, gospel, steel pan or rock music, these performing groups continue to develop the Harbour Island 'island music' sound As a matter of fact, these contemporaries all share two key musical influences in particular: The Percentie Brothers and Junkanoo.
THE PERCENTIE BROTHERS
The music of the Percentie family is now in its fourth generation, thanks to the latest revival of 'Native Sons' in 2000. "Papa" Percentie [1889-1963], a natural musician, farmer and part-time preacher at the Church of God on Chapel Street gave the original Percentie Brothers, born and reared on Harbour Island, their basic interest in music. He gave the island its spiritual favourite, "Heaven Is So High.". Their collection of songs has been built up over a period of decades. Herman, the oldest of the brothers and the nominal leader of the band, plays the banjo. Victor served as the lead singer and guitar. The melodious voice best featured in 'Zelma Rose' is Anthony ["Tony"], second guitarist. Newcomers to the band seeing them perform for the first time were fascinated by the fourth instrument referred to in 'Briland Rumba' as a 'can.' These ingenious ** if not entirely original ** instruments, made up of a ten-gallon can, a broomstick, a hard-woven cord and a second joint of hambone, effectively supplied the string bass background music. Newton Percentie, Herman's son, slapped the one string of the 'can' with a flare reminiscent of professional bass players. Their albums 'Harbour Island Sings,' 'Songs in Calypso' and 'Songs in Goombay' were first produced in 1953, and have been re-released several times. 'Harbour Island Sings' in particular is the island's first album ever produced in full stereo.
Interestingly enough, the element of love is almost entirely missing from the usual traditional calypso tunes found on Harbour Island. A Percentie Brothers contemporary, Rudolph 'Dykes' Albury, gave the island 'Lita,' a catchy rumba that is well-known as a rare Bahamian love song. But because so much of Bahamian calypso is of indefinite origin, Briland is particularly proud of 'Zelma Rose' and 'Briland Rhumba,' with words and music by Humphrey Percentie.
Junkanoo, a hybrid of Afro-Bahamian music and dance, began with the slaves who were given three days off at Christmas. In the early days, it involved groups of grotesquely masked dancers and musicians travelling from house to house, often on stilts. In one form or another, the practice became popular in the Carolinas, Jamaica, British Honduras [now Belize] and The Bahamas. Junkanoo went into decline after slavery was abolished, and became all but extinct in areas of the Caribbean where it once flourished. The Bahamas alone kept the memory alive, and is now the only country to continue the tradition in an annual festival of national significance.
The music has changed little since the early days, with goatskin leather drums, cowbells and whistles, and improvised homemade instruments such as bicycle horns, wheel rims and conch shells making up the sound. The drums were traditionally wooden barrels cut in half with goatskin stretched across one half that must be "tuned" by burning paper or candles under the tightly-stretched skin. Junkanoo remains the most distinctive, individual expression of Bahamian art and culture.
Harbour Island [Dunmore Town] is a small settlement on the outer fringe of the Bahama Island group. Situated some sixty miles northeast of Nassau, it is one of the oldest and most colourful of the Out Islands. It was the capital of the Bahamas for a short time in the early days before the British succeeded in terminating organized piracy and established the present government in Nassau. Harbour Island has retained its natural charm, and the people their quiet dignity.
Allie Mather Percentie