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Culture & People


The more developed art forms of Antigua & Barbuda are mas (street theatre), theatre, calypso, steel band, architecture, poetry, and fiction. Less well developed are the arts of painting, sculpture, and carving. In the case of the more developed art forms, processes of cultural hybridization have successfully produced distinct creole formations that are expressively linked to the subjectivity and rituals of Antiguans and Barbudans.

The population of Antigua & Barbuda is mostly descended from West Africans brought to the Caribbean as slaves. Thus, the music of Antigua & Barbuda is largely African in character, and has only felt a limited influence from European styles.


In the area of fiction and poetry, writers include Jamaica Kincaid, Ralf Prince, Elaine Olaoye and Dorbrene Omard.

Performing Arts

Good examples of distinct creole formations are calypso and steel band. Set to a distinct rhythmic beat, calypsos are songs of social commentary that range from the comic to the tragic. One of the major consequences of decolonisation on this art form has been its expansion to include religious themes and situations. Among the calypso kings of Antigua & Barbuda are Short Shirt, Swallow, Obstinate, Onyan, and Smarty Jr.

One of the few musical instruments invented in the twentieth century, steel bands consist of a number of "pans" – base pans, tenor pans, etc. They are made by pounding the basic notes out of the surface of steel drums used to transport oil. Bands range in size from about ten to one hundred pans. Developed first in Trinidad in the 1930s, the tradition spread quickly to Antigua & Barbuda. Well-known steel bands from Antigua & Barbuda include Brute Force, Hells Gate, Harmonites, Supa Stars and Halcyon.


The national Carnival held each August commemorates the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies, although on some islands, Carnival may celebrate the coming of Lent. Its festive pageants, shows, contests and other activities are a major tourist attraction.





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