A maroon military tactician, chieftainess and National Hero Of Jamaica, she is the indomitable, Nanny Of The Maroons.
Although very little is known about her, she is nevertheless a genuine culture hero, the subject of a large body of legends and stories in the oral tradition, especially among the Maroons of Jamaica for whom she is ‘Grandy Nanny’, their ancestral grandmother.
As poet and historian Kamau Brathwaite (1977) has pointed out, that although Nanny is mentioned only four times in the written official records and in a fragmented and contradictory manner, 'Her name, actions and influence are at the core of Maroon (oral) tradition'.
Believed to be born in 1685, and given name Sarah Elizabeth Curry, Nanny is identified with Nanny Town, the Maroon stronghold in the Blue Mountain area of Jamaica.
Related: Samuel Sharpe, National Hero
After the British government negotiated peace treaties with Cudjoe for the Leeward Maroons and Quao for the Windward Maroons in 1739, a land patent of 1741 was granted to Nanny and ‘the people residing with her’ 200 ha in the parish of Portland on terms similar to those agreed with Cudjoe and Quao.
Scholars believe that, like the majority of the Maroons, Nanny was of Ashanti origin. She was the spiritual and military leader of her people and did not herself take part in the fighting, but worked out the strategies of the campaigns.
The oral tradition has attributed to her fantastic powers and military exploits. She was supposed to have been a great magician with supernatural gifts.
The fact that a separate treaty was signed with her after the one with Quao suggests that she herself reluctantly agreed to the peace.
After the treaties the Eastern Maroons split in two, one group following Quao to found Charles Town near the coast, the other stayed with Nanny to found New Nanny Town (now Moore Town).
Nanny is believed to have been buried on a hill in Moore Town in 1750 that is known as ‘Bump Grave’ regarded as sacred ground.
There is also memorial to Nanny in the National Heroes Park in Kingston. The likeness of Nanny that appears on Jamaica's $500 banknote.
But Nanny’s symbolic importance goes far beyond the Maroons, representing as she does the female warrior spirit. She has inspired many Caribbean writers and artists, including Sistren Theatre group.
Although the details of her life are still shrouded in mystery, it is without a doubt that Nanny’s legacy is strong. She remains a perennial symbol of resistance and power in Jamaican history.
Nanny of the Maroons was conferred the nations highest recognition, The Order of the National Hero as per Government Notice 23 Jamaica Gazette along with Sam Sharpe On March 31, 1982.
And Ferdinand Boyd also created a be beautiful piece for her as well, you can read that here.
The Jamaica information service featured a short biography of Nanny as told by the Charleston Maroons. Please watch below.
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