The origin of this masked dance dates back to when the Garífuna inhabited Saint Vincent. In those days, the British colonizers infiltrated the island, setting their sight on the huge expansions of land and the local work force, the Garifuna.
These Garífuna ancestors resisted imperialist attacks and engaged in armed conflict with the British. This dance readopts the disguise that the Garífuna warrior utilized as a strategic defense against British forces.
According to Garífuna oral tradition, Barauda, the wife of the legendary Garífuna chief, Satuye, insulted her husband for not "being enough of a man" to avenge the British. The British were invading their communities and burning their cassava fields. She says, "women, we are going to have to dress as men and fight against the British. Meanwhile, men, you had better dress as women. Because the only thing you do is flee each time the British come near our villages."
In response, Satuye developed a strategy wherebye Garífuna men disguised themselves in women's clothing. The British entered the Garífuna towns unprepared, not expecting male resistance. They assumed that only women were at home in the villages.
Dressed as women, the male warriors assaulted the British and took the troops off guard. That is how the Garífuna cleverly deceived the British.
In the Wanaragua, the dancer is always male but wears an elaborate women's costume. The dress reaches the knees or below. Some see it as a disguise that covers and hides the body. It is very showy with its ample colored ribbons, mirrors, golden papers, and decorated shells.
The costume consists of three principal elements: the mask, the headdress, and the women's dress. Two additions are of a particular importance. They include the colored ribbons in the back part of the dress and the small rattles attached to the calves.
The headdress is normally made out of cardboard. It is coated with aluminum paper, golden paper, spectacles, metallic paper strips, flashy colored ribbons.
Unlike in other Garifuna drumming rhythms, in Jonkunu, the Primero drummer must follow the dancer. The dancer wears colored ribbons and rattles on his legs to accent the arm gestures and the breaks in rhythm such as the turns and stress the rhythms that is marked by the footsteps.
The dancer uses these instruments in his relationship and dialogue with the drummer. The drummer follows the dancer and adjusts the beating to favor the dance.