By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Reporter
UNTOLD stories of the Shell Saxons Superstars Junkanoo group are brought to life in a new book by Junkanoo legend Dr Emmanuel Francis.
‘The History of the Saxons Junkanoo Group (The Early Years) Stories of a Forgotten Bahamian Culture’ is published by Dr Francis who dedicates the book to the memory of the late Jackson Logan Burnside III, Bahamian architect, artist and cultural activist.
Dr Francis is a longtime member of the Shell Saxons Superstars, and has designed and built many costumes for group and individual categories including the One Love Soldiers group.
It was his brother, Percy “Vola” Francis, leader of the Shell Saxons Superstars, who introduced Dr Francis to Junkanoo costume construction. Since 1966, when he was a student at Government High, Dr Francis has rushed with the group.
“Manny” is also the founder of The University of Junkanoo, a concept which recognises the potential for educational development through Junkanoo.
The absence of in depth information on the history of Junkanoo and the history surrounding various groups was what inspired Dr Francis to share and to educate readers.
He said: “When you talk about the history of Junkanoo, you look at the literature that is available, and they basically have the same scenario. They talk about John Canoe, and West African culture being brought to the Bahamas. But there is nothing that really tells you how it started or how it was developed locally.
“When I thought about the history of the Saxons that intrigued me because I was a member since 1966 and I could relate to my own experiences. Where I did not remember certain things, I interviewed the key players, who are still around today. The Saxons’ history spans about 50 years. There was a lot of mystery and intrigue around those early years,” he told Tribune Entertainment.
Next month, Dr Francis will present the book to Doongalik Art Gallery & Studios, which is a creation of Jackson Burnside.
“The hallmark of his legacy lay in his belief that, by 2020, more tourists would come to the Bahamas for our art, culture and heritage than for sun, sand and sea; and who admonished us to tell our stories. His zeal for the preservation of our cultural identity and the revelation of its importance to our national development has inspired me to write this historical account, as well as my Junkanoo handbook,” Dr Francis said.
“I thank Jackson for showing me how to see the real purpose and value of the things we too often take for granted: our rich, unique and fascinating cultural heritage,” he said.
Dr Francis said Jackson Burnside’s insistence that people ‘see what you are looking at’ was the inspiration for his newest publication, ‘Morning Meditations in Paradise: Reflections at a Bahamian Sunrise’, which presents 99 images of the Bahamas with spiritual meditations.
Last year Dr Francis released a manual on the construction of Junkanoo costumes to assist students participating in the Junior Junkanoo parades.
The “Manual of Junkanoo Costume Construction: A Beginner’s Guide to Junkanoo Design” is a step-by-step guide on how to construct basic four-piece costumes, inclusive of crowns, hats, shoulder pieces, waist bands, skirts and front piece.
“The goal of that exercise was to provide a simple instructional handbook which Junkanoo group leaders, teachers, parents and craftsmen could use to educate group members and students in the basics of Junkanoo costume construction. This would ensure that costumes be custom made and that participants be more responsible for producing their own costumes,” he said.
Dr Francis was inducted into the National Junkanoo Circle by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the National Junkanoo Committee in December, 2008 after 42 years of excellence and innovation in Junkanoo.
He was also inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa liberal arts honour society, and the Beta Kappa Chi scientific honour society while matriculating at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee in 1976. Dr Francis received a DDS degree from Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry where he received honors in Biochemistry and Cosmetic Dentistry in 1981.