Kumina Queen

New York City, New York | Film Feature


Nyasha Laing

1 Campaigns | New York, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $7,845 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

105 supporters | followers

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Imogene “Queenie” Kennedy was Jamaica’s Kumina queen, a contemporary priestess & healer. She catapulted her African spiritual practice into popular culture and international notoriety. But colonial myths around ancestral practices remain today. We tell this story to demystify and celebrate kumina.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

For centuries, the knowledge of traditional communities like Queenie's has been hidden, erased, and forgotten. Our film, and OneIsland Media, are dedicated to shifting cultural taboos through stories that reconnect diverse storytellers & audiences to their cultural and ecological heritage.

The Story

Kumina Queen channels the spirit of Imogene “Queenie” Kennedy - a beloved healer and performer who catapulted the African spiritual practice of Kumina into the public spotlight in post-colonial Jamaica.

For two centuries, Kumina has been the hidden life-force behind Jamaica’s culture, visible in music and dance expressions, like dancehall, that have the pulsating folkloric rhythm at their core. The African ancestors still use Kumina as a portal to share messages with their descendants. But colonial laws and social taboos have made the practice misunderstood and feared; as early as the 18th century, colonial authorities outlawed obeah, or African witchcraft. Imogene “Queenie” Kennedy was Jamaica’s Kumina queen, a contemporary priestess who catapulted her African spiritual practice into popular culture and international notoriety. But what is her relevance today? Is Kumina more than a relic that most Jamaicans have chosen to forget? 

At the heart of Queenie’s story is her devotion to her spiritual practice. An access point to ancestral wisdom, healing, and empowerment, its basic elements are song, dance, and trance possession, with some incorporating herbal medicine. Congolese Africans who came as migrant workers in the post-emancipation period sustained these. For Queenie and her descendants, Kumina has served for over six generations as a vehicle for resistance and renewal. We explore Queenie’s symbolism and Kumina's impact through rare archival audio and visuals, first-hand accounts, and stop-motion graphics.

Interwoven with Queenie’s story and modern-day Kumina scenes are the personal accounts of a generation of cultural icons of Jamaican heritage who have worked to unearth their roots. Versed in dance, music, and cosmology, they open up a portal to the past. Their mysterious encounters with spirits also reveal conflicting beliefs and fears, as the subjects make meaning of whether to accept or reject their ancestral heritage. These notable contemporary cultural icons also shed light on the tremendous role Kumina has played in Jamaican music, dance, and identities. 

The folk wisdom, rhythms, and dances of Kumina live on as strands in Jamaica’s layered culture. They’ve become enmeshed in Rastafarian music, reggae, and dancehall riddims produced by greats like Shaka Demus and the Plyers, Sly and Robbie, and Clevie and Stevie.  Kumina dance has been performed and stylized by renowned artists including the National Dance Theater Company (NDTC).

But despite the clear imprint of Kumina on Jamaica’s cultural formation and popular music, there are very few young adopters to its traditional forms. The ancestral practice is dying out as elders pass away and global culture permeates the island. A lack of cultural transmission, social pressures, and religious taboos have also led many to abandon, forget, and lose the ancestral healing practices of Kumina. So much has been lost. What can be reclaimed?

Recognizing the urgent need for preservation, Jamaican officials recently submitted an application for the designation by UNESCO of Kumina and revivalism as intangible heritage. The film will create a visible narrative supporting documentation, revitalization, and education in Jamaica and impacting global cultural discourse. We are targeting US embassies, cultural institutions, and universities to ensure wide reach and educational impact.

Are you researching kumina or interested or are you a Kumina practitioner? Please message us. And follow us on social media! Thanks for the support and interest.


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Photo retouching

Costs $350

Many of our archival photos need editing and retouching.

Kumina Drummers

Costs $800

Let's give back to our talented drummers for their music and their knowledge.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

On Site Editor

Costs $2,250

Our editor has generously reduced her rates and this will contribute to production of the rough cut.

Sound mix

Costs $2,500

The many songs and acoustic soundscape need a professional mix and our Music Supervisor.

Archival Licensing

Costs $1,600

We need to license a clip of rare archival from CBS & field recordings from a family archive.

About This Team

Director and Producer Nyasha Laing is a documentarian, impact producer, and lawyer working to transform perceptions of diverse cultural leaders, traditions, and taboos. As a recreational jazz and afrobeat vocal performer, her first film traced the evolution of Garifuna popular music from Belize. Her written and produced work has been featured in and on Yes Magazine, BBC Worldwide, the South African Broadcasting Network, local museums, and international film festivals. She has produced storytelling and campaigns for organizations such as UNDP, the ACLU, NAACP LDF, the British Council, and the UN High Commission for Human Rights. Nyasha has served as an impact producer for films such as the Belly of the Beast (2020) and the Silence of Others (2018).

Director of Photography Garreth Daley is a Director of Photography, Director, and Photographer with over 17 years of professional experience in the Jamaican film and television industries. He is a storyteller and is a persistent student of his craft. Garreth has a unique eye and poignantly captures the human condition in all its beauty and inconsistencies. When he is not in studio or on set, he is capturing thought-provoking images with his camera. Garreth is the son of Ulster Spring, Trelawny, who grew up among a family of educators and was raised by this earnest rural community. You can see his portraiture here.

Editor Ina Sotirova is an award-winning, multi-platform filmmaker, journalist and photographer with over 10 years of experience telling positive stories. She is an incurable explorer and storyteller passionate about the world's diverse cultures and expressions, and the people who make them come alive. Her documentaries and short films, such as the acclaimed animated film Agwe, have screened and received awards at film festivals around the world, and her work has appeared in BBC News, World Policy Journal, Digital Photo Pro, and others. Additionally, she has created content for NGOs, cable TV channels, private companies, and embassies. Ina has lived in Kingston since 2015 and is currently working on her first feature-length narrative film. 

Art Director Oneika Russell received a diploma in Painting from The Edna Manley College in Jamaica. She completed an MA in Interactive Media at Goldsmiths College in London and postgraduate studies in Film, Video & Media Art at Kyoto Seika University in Japan. Past residencies include: Post-Museum in Singapore, NLS in Kingston, Vermont Studio Centre in Vermont, and most recently Residency Unlimited in Brooklyn. Major exhibitions include Jamaican Pulse at The Royal West of England Academy, UK; The 2017 & 2014 Jamaica Biennial, Kingston; At the Crossroads: Critical Film and Video from the Caribbean at Perez Museum of Art Miami and the 2018 DAKAR Biennial, Senegal.

Music Supervisor Jesse Golding is an offspring of movement and music, a true child of the arts. In his early childhood years, The Little Theatre and the Fab5 band studio were his playgrounds and served as the fertile ground for his deep love and appreciation of Jamaica’s rich cultural heritage. From his tender years, he played the drum innately, effortlessly replicating Afro-Caribbean rhythms as if pulses of his heartbeat. For years, he has performed as a percussionist member of the National Dance Theater Company of Jamaica. Jesse's career has also included roles in event design and production, broadcast programming, and multimedia production at the Edna Manley College School of Arts. For years, he has also taught percussion, imparting his love for the drums to learners at all levels.

Production Manager Dwayne O'Neal is a native of Jamaica and has worked in Jamaica and the U.S. as a filmmaker, musician, and writer. In 2018 Stewy launched a production company named Rxfilms, which handles all aspects of taking a project from conception to completion. As director/producer he has helped to create a variety of content including short films, documentaries, web series, music videos, commercials, and talk shows. A member of the team behind the creation of B.O.M.B. Network, which is an online television and radio website focused on content from the Caribbean and other emerging and under-represented markets, Stewy is known for his uncompromising devotion to quality and is firmly committed to the development and progression of a loyal film culture in Jamaica.

Current Team