Jaw-Bone, or House John-Canoe
This lithograph shows a man in a redcoat, white mask, a long-haired wig and carrying a model house on his head. Belisario described that this “is the most conspicuous of those who annually attract public notice.” His pseudo military dress-style was “in common with the whole John Canoe fraternity." He was always masked “with a profusion of dark hair, which is suffered to fall in large wild ringlets over his face and shoulders, giving his appearance an extraordinary and savage air. . . The house [on his head] is usually constructed of pasteboard and coloured papers — it is also frequently highly ornamented with beads, tinsel, spangles, pieces of looking glass, etc. etc. and being firmly fixed on a board, the bearer is enabled to balance it whilst going through many. . . contortions of body and limbs miscalled dancing.” Isaac Mendes Belisario (1795–1849) was a Jamaican artist of Jewish descent and active in Kingston Jamaica around British emancipation in 1833. The image shown here, as well as others of “John-Canoes,” was drawn from life by Belisario in 1836. This lithograph is one of twelve originally published in three parts, four plates at a time.
Isaac Mendes Belisario, Sketches of character, in illustration of the habits, occupation, and costume of the Negro population, in the island of Jamaica: drawn after nature, and in lithography (Kingston, Jamaica: Published by the artist, 1837-1838).
Belisario, Isaac Mendes
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"Jaw-Bone, or House John-Canoe", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed February 5, 2023, http://www.slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/2311