Koo, Koo, or Actor Boy
This lithograph shows an elaborately costumed and masked male dancer surrounded by on-lookers and musicians. Belisario described how "he carries a whip and fan, the former used for clearing his path, the latter for cooling himself when his mask is lifted. . . the band consists of drums and fifes only, to which music the Actor stalks most majestically, oftentimes stopping to afford the by-standers a fair opportunity of gazing at him. . . The foundation [of his headdress] is an old hat, affording the wearer the means of sustaining the superstructure, to which it is firmly attached, and composed of various colored beads, bugles, spangles, pieces of looking-glass, tinsel, etc. attached to a pasteboard form trimmed round the edges with silver lace, surmounted with feathers. The garments are of muslin, silk, satin, and ribbons." 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. See also image Belisario03.
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, at his residence, 1837-1838).
Belisario, Isaac Mendes
Image is in the public domain. Metadata is available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International.
British Caribbean; Jamaica; Kingston
"Koo, Koo, or Actor Boy", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed February 18, 2020, http://www.slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/2314