The Jab Jab (from “diable” the French for devil ) is one of the main characters in Grenada’s traditional Carnival. In the US, the Jab Jab makes his/her appearance during J’ouvert an early morning street party that kicks off the West Indies Day Parade on Labor Day.
The Jab Jab’s act is an important part of African Diaspora street theatre.
The Jab Jab is known for wearing devil’s horns, carrying chains, being covered with oil or paint, dancing/acting in a sexy way and for threatening to press his smeared body against spectators, especially those who are unwilling to “pay the devil”.
The Jab Jab’s act is a commentary on the Grenadian experience. African Grenadians began openly celebrating carnival with their emancipation from slavery. I see the Jab Jab coming from two directions. First, he is a take on a similar African Diaporan Spirit found in other Caribbean cultures, called Gede in Haiti, who is also lascivious, demands money and has a sharp tongue. So, the Jab Jab is a conversation with the Spirits from Africa. Second, the Jab Jab is inverting the stereotypes foisted upon him his former slave masters. When covered in oil, the Jab Jab is blacker than black, shiny and in this way the skin is even more voluptuous. By inhabiting this terrifying persona, he is critiquing the treatment of his people by the institution of slavery. By reclaiming this space the Jab Jab is rewriting this bit of history on his own terms.