The Bahamas is an archipelago nation of over 700 islands that has become a tourism hotspot with many attracted to its climate, beaches and forested interiors. Initially inhabited by Lucayan Indians the Bahamas was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who named the islands ‘baja mar’, meaning ‘shallow water’ because of the shallow surrounding seas. The location of the islands, ‘close to Florida and well-travelled shipping channels meant that they were soon to become of serious interest to explorers, settlers, traders and invaders who consequently played a huge role in the shaping of the Bahamian history and culture.
In 1648 Bahamas was settled by a group of English Puritans called the Eleutheran Adventurers; the late 16th and early 17th centuries followed with pirates and buccaneers ruling the islands’ surrounding waters before the Bahamas became a ‘Crown Colony’ of the British from 1717. In 1834 the slaves were finally emancipated and in 1973 the Bahamas became independent. Since independence, it has seen government ministers charged with corruption and drug trafficking and has undergone various political upheavals.
Since the islands attracted the arrival of various new populations over the course of several centuries it also saw a diverse set of traditions, beliefs and languages develop. Art, music and dance are the most common expressions of this cultural union. The art here is ‘bright, bold and strikingly beautiful’, most often taking inspiration from the Bahamian people and their surrounding environment. Music, being deeply engrained in the traditional culture, is represented in the common Caribbean styles of Calypso and Soca, English folk songs and African rhythms, however the most traditional music, and perhaps the most unique to the islands, are found through the Junkanoo parade and rake and scrape bands. Storytelling is also an important way of sharing information, and this is often extended in the literature and film about and from the island. Some authors to note are Don Bruns and Peter Barratt. Also, with the establishment of the Bahamas Film Commission and The Bahamas Film Studios, the islands have been the setting for many blockbuster films.