Musea di Belua - Yenny's Art Museum

Bonaire's Karnaval - A Cultural Ethos of the Caribbean

 Bonarian Arts and Culture

Bonaire is a small island but as in the case of most of the Caribbean islands, it has an incredible culture due to the fusion of world cultures that has occured on these islands. Bonaire draws on a melting pot of African, Caribbean, South American and European traditions which has created the diverse cultural traditions of Bonaire.

This can be seen directly in the dances of the local tradition, such as with the ever popular Simidan and Bari dance which draws influences from African rhythms and percussive instruments. The European influence can be seen in the Waltz, Mazurka, Polka and local dance called the "Baile di Sinta", which is performed around a Maypole in the European tradition. The Rumba, Carioca and Meringue came from the Northern Caribbean region. The Latin American influence contributed to the Danza and Joropo.   

One particular current day social tradition that very much directs the rhythm of the day is the 5 o'clock Bonaire Happy Hour. For both native Bonairians and Dutch island dwellers when 5 o'clock rolls around, work ceases and the social scene commences. Many agree this is the liveliest part of the day, with the sun reflecting oranges and pinks off the several rounds of Polar that have accumulated towards the center of the table. Divers have crawled out of the ocean for the two-for-one deals or half-price specials and island folk are migrating towards their favorite Snack Bar.

One doesn't think of France without French, or Italy without Italian, but what does one think of in relation to Bonaire? Does the Dutch language immediately come to mind? Or is it the local Caribbean dialect, Papiamentu? Papiamentu is a form of Portuguese derived Creole indigenous to the Dutch Antilles. Its roots are traced back to Guene, the private language of Antillian slaves in the 1600s. For a long time, anthropologists and linguists alike disregarded Guene because it wasn't discernibly linked to a major language (the enlightened anthropologist, Martinus Arion, describes this tendency as “the chauvinism of European national languages toward regional idioms”). The study of Guene gained ground when historians began finding more and more Guene words in the oraliture, the written and verbal acts of art that flowed out of the Dutch Antilles.

For celebration, an example is Bonaire's Simadan festival. This festival began in the days of slavery on the island and celebrates the growing season’s harvest (typically March/April). Typical foods during Simadan include Funchi (cooked cornmeal), and Repa (pancakes made of Sorghummeal), served plain or with goat stew, goat soup, Giambo (okra soup, similar to gumbo), and Boontji Kunuku (local beans).

The Simadan festival is also notable for the use of the becu, an aerophone made from the stalk of a sorghum plant, and the kinkon, made from a conch shell and known elsewhere as the carco. Folk song forms range from the harvest seu, simadan and wapa. Other songs were imported beginning in the 19th century, including the South American joropo and pasillo, Spanish Caribbean meringue and other new songs, dances and instruments. This diverse mixture was the origin of the Dutch Antilles' most distinctive and long-standing popular tradition, the tumba.

Needless to say, Bonairian culture can not be encapsulated in a web resource write-up, but hopefully this gives you a small glimpse and inspires future travel ideas.