John Canoe (Jonkonnu, JonKanoo) Costume, Jamaica, 1837
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).
Captioned, “Jaw-Bone, or House John-Canoe,” along with “Koo-Koo, or Actor Boy” (see image reference Belisario03) this “is the most conspicuous of those who annually attract public notice.” He dresses in a pseudo military style and “in common with the whole John Canoe fraternity,” he is 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 is usually constructed of pasteboard and colored 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 strange contortions of body and limbs miscalled dancing.” Isaac Mendes Belisario was born in Kingston in 1794 into a merchant family of Sephardic Jews.