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THE SHACKLES of slavery were broken almost a century ago, but the memories of sweet freedom is alive today in the rich culture of the "Kumina people".

In a recent interview with The Gleaner, Wesley Campbell, 65, explains that Kumina refers to the music and lifestyle of the Guinness tribe. Taken from the Gold Coast, these people were among the tribes captured and enslaved. In Jamaica, the Guinness tribe can be recognised by their language.

Mr. Campbell, says the history of the Guinness slaves celebrating freedom through Kumina, has been passed down orally through generations. And like him, there are others who celebrate the abolishment of slavery on August 1, as "this is the date we know from our learnt history".

The Kumina group of 17 found in Dalvey, St. Thomas is one of the most prominent groups in Jamaica, second in size only to the St. Catherine Kumina group.

Lead singer Clemento Flemmings, explains that there are two Kuminas. Performance Kumina is done at special events arranged mainly through the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC). Then there is the "real Kumina" for the Guinness people.

At the "real Kumina" one can expect just about anything, as one of the aspects of Kumina is "being possessed by the spirits of the dead". Anyone can become possessed and there is no limit as to how many spirits can enter an individual. At this point the possessed person enters into a trance called the Maya.

"There is nothing to fear," says Clement who says Kumina is a religion that uplifts and strengthens participants.

When asked if the members practised obeah, Ephraim Bartley, the group's leader gave an emphatic "No". Obeah, he says is always for bad, while Kumina, despite being sometimes used for bad, is always meant for good.

According to the leader, persons have been healed and there are even some who have been raised from the dead.

Today among the Guinness people are converts to other religions, but the zeal to uphold the tradition of "our roots keep the Guinness people, particularly the Kumina group, bonded."

One of the special memories witnessed is a fat woman who ended up floating in the air and the frightening memories shared, included the head of live fowls being bitten off. This ritual, as explained, is simply to satisfy the craving of the spirit of the dead.

The group members say no one usually drinks the blood, but it is sprinkled on the earth. Mr. Bartley, according to group members, has often walked through fire, while in a Maya.

Both the players of musical instruments and the instruments have to be blessed with white rum prior to the start of a performance.