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Accompong Maroon Festival Celebrating 268 Years!

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barrett_adventures_accompong_hikingAccompong Maroon Festival

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

If you are from Jamaica or, in any way interested in the island’s history, you must have come across the Maroons. They are the enslaved people who ran away from plantations all across the island and created secret communities in the mountains. They were able to develop self-sufficiency, create their own governance structure and build long-lasting communities.

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I know some of us can hardly imagine communicating without our phones and technology, but these maroons found a way to relay messages from one village to the next and locate each other almost always outsmarting the British soldiers who tried to recapture them.

Today, these settlements are still thriving with much of our history and culture evident all around through their descendants who dutifully continue living their lives as a celebration of their foreparents.

There are many Maroon settlements across the islands, among the most popular is Accompong, St. Elizabeth. Its first leader was celebrated Maroon warrior Cudjoe, the brother of National Heroine, Nanny of the Maroons.

Annually, on January 6th, the much anticipated Maroon Festival is held at the Maroon settlement. The festival celebrates the birthday of Accompong’s first leader, who eventually led the village to a treaty with the British, Captain Codjoe.

If you can imagine, that was 268 years ago! This year’s celebrations commemorate over two centuries of the celebrations for Captain Cudjoe which is only fitting since he dedicated much of that life to seeing to the freedom of the Maroons. One of the first wins for Jamaica in its long fight for Independence.

From traditional drumming and visiting the ceremonial grounds to trying jerk in its truest form (jerk wild boar), there was so much to see, do, try and learn at this celebration.

Food

As soon as you enter, the streets are lined with stalls and jerk pans overflowing with all sorts of Jamaican food. Soups, corn, pork, chicken, alcohol and of course roots.

In history class, we were always told that the Maroons, especially those in Eastern Jamaica, would cook wild hogs (boars); this is how the concept of Jerking meat was born. Wild boar is no longer widely eaten in Jamaica, so hearing about it was the closest I had come to it…until now.

Imagine my shock walking past a stall to see a huge pig, head and all being roasted on the spot. Always one for theatrics, the jerk vendors even gave the pigs sunglasses to protect them from the sweltering heat.

People

We ran into many others who were just as marveled to witness what the Accompong Maroon Festival is truly like. From locals whose ancestry traces back to the area to visitors of all races, everyone gathered to celebrate the successes of the Maroons.

Lorna, an ardent viewer of our channel shared with us that her late father was a member of the Accompong community and so, this was an opportunity for her, each year to come home. Wellesley had his reunion when he ran into his cousin along with Ghanaian content creator, DeeMwango, who was just ecstatic to be surrounded by this aspect of Jamaican culture.

Another lady, Angella, who also has ancestry in Accompong, likened the day to Christmas. It is a time of togetherness for Maroon people and what we soon realised is that not only did Maroons living in Jamaica return “home” for the celebrations but others living all across the globe did too. She gave us a cool drink of lemonade, a tradition passed on from her grandmother to her mother. Now, she has taken over.

Christopher, from Belgium, has been to Jamaica 13 times! After visiting so frequently, it is only right that he journeyed to Accompong for the Maroon celebrations which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Kindah Ceremony - Clear Road Wi Marching

Away from the festivities and on to more sombre activities, we headed to Kindah where we could hear the drumming and chanting as we approached the grounds. Accompong’s now leader, Captain Currie could be seen leading his people in the drumming and dancing, a key feature of the day.

Some parts of the ceremony must not be recorded, especially, the feeding of the ancestors. We watched as Captain Currie and his men went off in the distance to the ancestral burial ground then, listened as a salute went off.

When they made it back, it was time for the “Lucky Pork” and Roasted yam to be served to those of us in attendance. The was served on banana leaves and we were instructed to eat it on the spot as it should not exit the location. Again, we washed it down with Angella’s lemonade.

From there, we marched to lay a wreath and then to the museum; a great place to learn about the history and culture of the Maroons and their contributions to society.

The evening's proceedings began with the traditional blowing of the abeng and then the awards ceremony started, hosted by Dahlia Harris (radio/TV personality).

Peace Cave

An important piece of the history of Accompong is the Peace Cave. First, it was a strategic location for spotting (and hiding from) the Red Coats. The soldier on duty would then blow the Abeng to warn the other warriors of the enemy's advances.

Then, where it got its name, the Peace Cave is where Captain Cudjoe and the British inked the Peace Treaty finally ending the war on March 1st, 1738.

Even having lived in Jamaica my entire life, I still learn so much about my own history and culture every day. The day spent with the Maroons was not only exciting but insightful. I would encourage anyone interested in Jamaican culture to experience this aspect as well. It does contribute to making Jamaica the beloved country it is.

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References & Sources For Accompong Maroon Festival Celebrating 268 Years!

  1. 1000’s descended upon the Accompong Maroon Festival (to see this) 🇯🇲 (2024) YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8orhBTvuBE (Accessed: 24 February 2024).
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