With the exception of a few fights between rival bands or Negre Jardins…the masqueraders were, on the whole, more amusing than anything else.
One of the oldest traditional characters that have vanished from the Carnival landscape is that of the ‘Negre Jardin’ This character was representative of an enslaved field labourer and was usually played by those of the upper class.
Neg Jardin, Negre Jardin, Neg Jadan (n): A Carnival Mas in which players imitate black slave field-workers. From French Creole neg andFrench negre ‘black person’ + French Creole jadan and French jardin ‘garden; field’. In French Creole Negue Jadin, comprised the bands, carried torches (for night-time illumination) and drums (for rhythmic accompaniment to their work songs.)
A male masquerader’s costume usually comprising a tattered straw hat, colourful shirt tied with a bright big waistband, and knee-long trousers, either rolled up or tattered at the ends; it represents an imitation of the costume of the historical figure.
Negre Jardin- Caribbean Usage
In Dominica, Trinidad and Saint Lucia, the phrase Negre Jardin are used to describe a black field slave [derogritory field nigger] usually a male. Which is in contrast to the house-slave or [house-nigger], often a female, who worked indoors.
One of the oldest traditional characters that has vanished from the Carnival landscape is that of the ‘Negre Jardin’ This character was representative of an enslaved field labourer and was usually played by those of the upper class. This was such an ancient character in Trinidad that in 1860, Trinidad Sentinel reported on the 2nd February of that year that, “… princes and lords of the land paraded in the sooty disguise of the negre jardin … even the residents of the Government House mimicked the garden niggers.” The shift in the popularity of this masque can be accredited to Emancipation in 1838. After Emancipation the formerly enslaved Africans were free to join in the masquerade processions.
The various words and phrases from Trinidad & Tobago can be traced back to English, French, Hindi, and Spanish origins. Negre Jardin is one such word that has its roots in the French language. Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago is interesting because the slangs can change over time. I have lived in the United States for 20 years now, and every time I travel back to Trinidad and Tobago, I have to reacquaint myself with the words and phrases that have evolved.
Trini folklore such as Papa Bois is an oral tradition meant to pass on the stories to the next generation. Other Trini phrases in the vernacular are Tanka Lanka, Bobol and Obzocky.
Click here now for other Trini expressions and leave us a comment below of phrases you have heard.