John Canoe (Jonkonnu, JonKanoo) Costume, Jamaica, 1838

Captioned, “Koo, Koo, or Actor-Boy,” John Canoe characters who, Belisario writes, were literate street performers who recited passages from, for example, Shakespeare plays and engaged in pantomime. “They content themselves annually with the public exhibition of their finery,” and station themselves in a busy area of Kingston where “gentlemen who may be passing are requested to decide which is the smartest dressed,” presumably by tipping them. The image shown here, as well as others of “John-Canoes,” was drawn from life by Belisario in 1836.

John Canoe (Jonkonnu, JonKanoo) Dancers, Jamaica, 1838; Image Reference Belisario03, as shown on, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.