A MEMORIAL service for Maureen Duvalier, a Bahamian cultural icon and hailed as a pioneer of Junkanoo, will be held on Friday at 7.30pm in Rawson Square.
Ms Duvalier, known as “Bahama Mama” and “Calypso Mama”, died on December 19 aged 88. She began her work as an entertainer with Freddie Munnings Sr at the Silver Slipper Night Club and other stints followed at the Montagu Hotel, the Ardastra Gardens, the Spider Web Night Club and the British Colonial Hotel Lounge. Her repertoire was native folk and calypso.
Born on May 14, 1926 on Burial Ground Corner, her father was the late Eustace Edward Duvalier. She was the niece of the one-time Haitian President Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. She was a spiritual person, her motto being “put God first”, and her real joy, she said, came from making others happy.
In 1958 Ms Duvalier led 25 women, along with a group of men, down Bay Street in the Junkanoo Parade. She made history as the first woman with a Junkanoo group. In the group were such notables as former Senator Telator Strachan and the late Becky Chipman. Their group went on to win the first place trophy. At this time her only album, “Calypso Mama”, was made.
Ms Duvalier represented the Ministry of Tourism in 40 US states, spending many years travelling all over the world and helping to create a tourism industry for the Bahamas.
In 2004 she was invested with the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). She was inducted into the Junkanoo Legends Circle in 2007. Formally retired from entertainment, she came out of retirement to perform two or three nights a week at the Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island.
The funeral service for Ms Duvalier will be held on Sunday at 2.30pm at St. Agnes Church, Baillou Hill Road. The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture has requested all Junkanoo groups and Junkanooers to assemble at Elizabeth Avenue and Bay Street to rush the remains of Ms Duvalier to the Eastern Cemetery.