Accompong Maroons celebrate

Regional

Accompong Maroons celebrate

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Observer staff reporter

Monday, January 13, 2020

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ACCOMPONG, St Elizabeth — The streets of this Maroon village were abuzz with activity for the annual celebration of a peace treaty with British colonisers in 1738.

Vehicular traffic streamed into the community from early morning into the afternoon, filling Accompong with vendors and visitors who had come to experience the modern version of a 282-year-old Maroon tradition.

“It's a different experience to come and see what you read about in the textbooks...it makes it come alive,” said Veta Porter Brown, a history teacher from Hopewell High School travelling with a group of grade 11 students.

“These are history students and part of what they have to look at is resistance and revolts. Today they are here to learn and see the Maroon celebration,” said the teacher.

Descendants of slaves who fled to the mountains when the British drove the Spanish from Jamaica in 1655, as well as runaways from British plantations, the Maroons fought the colonisers for decades.

Hostilities ended, for the most part, following the 1738 peace treaty.

Porter Brown was saddened by the commercialism which now surrounds the annual festival. “At one point I stopped coming because the products that the vendors were selling did not represent Maroon culture. People [come] to see native items of the Maroons, not things that come from America or China,” she said.

The controversial currency recently introduced by the Maroons, the lumi, spurred interest. It was being sold by on-foot peddlers at a rate of $1,000 per lumi.

“I purchased two lumi yesterday [to take] back to the United States with me. I thought it was just a beautiful currency…but I have a lot of questions in terms of how it will be used and promoted locally. So I am waiting for those answers, but I think it is a beautiful idea,” said Debra Wright, an American blogger visiting from the United States.

“I got my lumi as soon as I got here and, as with anything, it is a step by step process,” said Laurel Gayle, a Maroon, resident abroad.

“People criticise but we just have to stick to it. My ancestors never gave up, they kept their eyes on the prize, so I am supporting it,” Gayle said.

Jamaica's central bank, the Bank of Jamaica, has cautioned that the lumi is not legal tender.

Many were pulled by the mystery surrounding the ceremonial aspects of the Maroon festival.

“We came here to get a real taste of Maroon history and Jamaican history. The fact that only the Maroons could march down to the ancestors' burial [ground] was really fascinating because you hear about the Maroons, but to experience it has been awesome,” said Pearl Thompson, a Jamaican visiting from the United Kingdom.

A special ceremony at the “kinda tree”, where tradition holds that early Maroons would meet to plan their affairs, was a gathering point for throngs of people.

Against a backdrop of incessant drumming they waited for the return of Maroon elders who true to age-old tradition, had marched downhill to an ancient burial ground — forbidden to non-Maroons on the day — with food and gifts for their ancestors.


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