top of page

"We Dance for Justice"

“We Dance for Justice”

John Obafemi Jones 2021 Acrylic and paint sticks on canvas 24” x 36.”


This painting is my way of acknowledging the power of dance. From the beginning of the enslavement of African people dance has been utilized as a form of communication and resistance.This painting salutes those dancers that came to the streets during BLM protests marches this summer{2020}. I also want to give a visual shout out to the history of Afro Atlantic Dance and more specifically "Bamboula" in the fight for Justice and Equality.

In the West Indies, and wherever the bamboula dance ritual was performed during the colonial period of the West, white planters were afraid of the enslaved Africans' music. They felt threatened that a slave revolt might occur, impacting the plantation economy. On mainland U.S. the southern novelist George Washington Cable wrote in 1885:

'The bamboula still roars and rattles, twangs, contorts and tumbles in terrible earnest while we stand and talk... the music changes. The rhythm stretches out heathenish and ragged. The quick contagion is caught by a few in the crowd, who take it up with spirited smitings of the bare sole upon the ground and of open hands upon the thighs. From a spot near the musicians a single male voice, heavy and sonourous, rises in improvisation - the Mandingoes brought that art from Africa - and in a moment many others have joined in the refrain, male voices in rolling, bellowing resonance, female responding in high piercing unison."

On the island of St. Thomas, Danish West Indies, businesspeople continued cheat the female mine workers out of their pay with a Mexican currency. In September 1892, "Queen" Coziah led a protest with 200 bamboula dancers at the port in Charlotte Amalie. Here are some of the lyrics to the bamboula song: "Ah went to the shop with a quart to buy 15-cent thing, When ah look in meh hand Dem shopkeeper gimme tally for change, Roll, Isabella, roll, Roll (beat) the drums! Call the people to action!"

Today in the US Virgin Islands, the bamboula dance is rare in our culture, however, Dr. Chenzira Davis-Kahina and others keep the dance alive. Experiencing a "Bamboula Gathering" for me, is like watching the most gracious of birds dancing in the sky to music by Mile Davis. Totally abstract, totally "Badass".

John Obafemi Jones

About the author: John Obafemi Jones is an American artist residing in the U.S. Virgin Islands. An expressionistic figurative painter, his paintings are rooted in his need for self-discovery and expression. He frequently uses jazz themes and blues icons because he feels these art forms that have historically confronted some of society’s most serious questions. For examples of mix media painting visit


bottom of page