Thursday, 19 November 2009

Travel: Accompong in Jamaica

Known as a country within a country - Accompong [founded by our kromanti forefathers –who I believe were really Fanti people and not Ashanti –as is always reported] has no taxes, no police and hardly any crime –and has semi-independent town status in western Jamaica. I have plans to visit –and wanted to share its history and other FACTS with you…..Enjoy….xx

“In 1690 a large group of slaves in Clarendon, consisting mainly of Coromantees an extremely brave and warlike people from Africa’s Gold Coast, rebelled and escaped into the dense woods. Soon they would join forces with the Spanish-freed Maroons under the able leadership of one of their number named Cudjoe. We are told he was a thick necked, short, extremely squat man with a large lump of flesh upon his back. They say he was bear-like in appearance and often acted in a strange wild manner. Cudjoe, with the help of his two brothers Accompong and Johnny (in the West or Leeward side), and two sub-chiefs Quao and Cuffee (in the East or Windward side), began a campaign of murder and robbery known to history as the First Maroon War. Disguised from head to foot with leaves and cunningly concealed, the Maroons chose to attack from ambush. This form of warfare along with their skill in woodcraft and familiarity with the untracked forests along with their legendary skill as marksman baffled and confounded those sent to fight them. Keen-eyed lookouts would spot an approaching force long before their arrival and spread the warning through the abeng horn, a kind of bugle made from a cow’s horn. Especially skilled horn blowers could use particular calls to summon each member of their party from long distances as if they were face-to-face. The English forces suffered huge losses both from the sharp shooting Maroons and the tropical diseases that were very common at that time.
In 1734 Captain Stoddart lead a successful attack on Nanny Town (named for a Maroon Chieftainess) aided by Mosquito Coast Indians and tracking dogs. The town was completely leveled and to this day is believed haunted by the ghosts of those who died in that battle. Cudjoe, finding himself less secure, moved further into the Trelawny Cockpits and those that escaped the battle moved even further into the Cockpits to establish a new village site. The fighting soon resumed. With a slave to owner ratio of 14:1 and successful new raids on plantations occurring more frequently, the Assembly was sufficiently alarmed to vote the necessary funds for a large scale campaign against the Maroons. The situation was getting desperate for the Maroons as their provision grounds were destroyed and they were forced into smaller areas. The alternative of surrender over starvation was becoming a real option..but the government did not know this. Shortly after a bloody massacre of English soldiers by a band of Maroons led by Cudjoe from a hiding spot in a cave to be later dubbed the Peace Cave, the King of England in 1738 commissioned Colonel Guthrie to seek out Cudjoe and offer him favorable terms of peace.

On January 6th 1738, Colonel Guthrie and Colonel Cudjoe exchanged hats as a sign of friendship and, after some discussion; the treaty was agreed to under a big cotton tree then called Cudjoe’s tree and today called the Kindah One Family tree. By its terms the Maroons were granted full freedom and liberty, given 1,500 acres of land and the right to hunt wild pig anywhere except within a 3 mile limit of a town or plantation. Cudjoe was appointed Chief Commander in Trelawny Town and his successors in order beginning with Accompong and Johnny. The Chief Commander or Colonel as he is called today is empowered to inflict any punishment he thinks proper for crimes committed by his people except those requiring the death sentence when then they are handed over to a justice of the peace. The Maroons had to agree to end all hostilities, receive no more runaway slaves and further agreed to help recapture them for a reward when the runaways were returned to their owners. Finally the Maroons had to agree to suppress any local uprising or foreign invasion. The following year a similar treaty was agreed to and signed with Quao, Chief of the Windward Maroons in what is called Moore Town today. The First Maroon War had officially ended and more than 50 years of peace ensued. Two more conflicts were later dubbed the Second Maroon War and the Third Maroon War but neither of these involved the Accompong Town Maroons. They remained neutral in both conflicts and remain so today.

Not all historical accounts written by Western scholars agree with the Maroon Historians versions of those same events. One such example is the signing of the Peace Treaty ending the First Maroon War. No mention of the Peace Cave as the official site of the treaty signing can be found in history textbooks but Maroon Historians insist that Colonel Guthrie and Colonel Cudjoe signed the Peace Treaty in a blood brother ceremony within it’s confines. Location of that original Peace Treaty is hard to pin down as the Maroon Historians only say a trusted Maroon elder is the keeper of this valuable document and keeping its location secret is a top priority. Accompong Town is a relatively new settlement as the original village Old Town where Cudjoe is buried was abandoned in favor of higher ground when Accompong, his brother, took over leadership of the Maroons. This Old Town is considered sacred ground today and a secret ceremony is performed there each January 6th when the signing of the Peace Treaty is celebrated. The position of Colonel was once a lifetime position but now has been modified to a 5 year elected position.
In the 263 years since the Peace Treaty was signed, the Accompong Maroons have had only 1 unfortunate incidence of a capital crime requiring the intervention of a justice of the peace making this a truly remarkable place. There are no Jamaican Police in Accompong and the substation in Maggotty is on-call if needed but that has never been necessary as the Maroons are quite capable of policing themselves. There are no ground-based telephones in Accompong. Pipe water is relatively new and not in all areas of the community. Electricity has been available for a number of years but not in all homes. The roads to Accompong Town are in dire need of repair and only local professional drivers or vehicles built for off-road terrain should attempt to drive there. Some new Guest Houses have been constructed as of late and overnight, as well as Day Visits by tourists, are roundly encouraged by the Maroon Council and community members.

The future of Accompong and its residents is in question. No jobs in the community mean that many Maroons have to go past the gate to get employment. The Government of Jamaica along with the Tourist Product Development Company is currently trying to help remedy this situation. Efforts to preserve the history, folklore, music and craft making skills have been ongoing as well as training the youth to carry on the proud traditions is being instituted. Approximately 500 residents live in Accompong Town or in the surrounding Cockpit Country. Another possible 5,000 live around Jamaica and still another 10,000 or more are scattered in foreign countries like Canada, the US and Great Britain. However, as they say, once a Maroon, always a Maroon! [Credit: Bill Evans at:]

Further information - Maroons in St. Elizabeth
Accompong is an historical Maroon village in the parish of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. It is named after the Maroon leader, Accompong, brother of Quao, Cudjoe (or Kojo), Cuffy and Nanny, also Maroon leaders from the Ashanti family of Ghana. The isolated area was a refuge first for the Tainos (Arawaks) from the Spanish and then for the Maroons, (runaway slaves), from the British. The runaway slaves were called Maroons, from the Spanish word cimmarron, meaning wild or untamed. The rebel slaves and their descendants fought the colonizers – threatening the profitable sugar industry by raiding plantations, killing white militia men and freeing slaves. They captured more lands from plantation holders to create a sacred landscape of what was left to them by colonial treaty. They won autonomy from the British, consolidated by a Treaty signed at Peace Cave in 1739 – although one requirement was to police other runaway slaves. When war broke out again in The Maroon War of 1795, the Accompong Maroons remained neutral and were left alone by the British. All other Maroon settlements were destroyed – surviving Trelawney Maroons were deported to Nova Scotia, Canada in 1796 and those who survived the brutal winters there were sent to Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa. Once there, these Maroons were used to quell an uprising against the Sierra Leone Company by the Black settlers from Britain - many of whom were Black Loyalists in the American War of Independence (1775-1783), former slaves promised their freedom for supporting the British soldiers in America. Every January 6, (Cudjoe's birthday), descendants and friends of the Maroons celebrate the Treaty of 1739 at a festival in Accompong, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. [Credit:]

Kramanti Today….
The work of Alleyne (1988, p. 122), in keeping with previous work on the subject, identifies the language variety labeled Kramanti by the Maroons of Jamaica as very closely related to the Akan dialect/language cluster of West Africa. The best known language within this cluster is Twi-Asante. The label ‘Kramanti’ owes its origin to a major slaving port on the Gold Coast, modern day Ghana, which was known to the Europeans as Coromantyn. This port was located in the Akan-speaking area of West Africa and would, therefore, have been a source for large numbers of slaves of Akan ethnic and linguistic background. In many parts of the Americas, including Suriname, Guyana and Carriacou, Coromantee and similar labels have been used for ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups with what appear to be Akan origins. Alleyne (1988, pp. 122) suggests that people of Akan linguistic and cultural origin were dominant in the early years of plantation slavery in Jamaica, both on the plantations and amongst the runaway Maroons. Not surprisingly, therefore, it is an Akan variety, Kramanti, that has endured as a form of African linguistic heritage dating back to the very earliest days of plantation slavery in Jamaica.

The language is reported by Harris (1994, p. 39) to still have been spoken ‘freely’ in Moore Town up to the early 1930s. Kramanti was, he claims, used alongside an archaic variety of English lexicon Creole styled in the literature as ‘Maroon Spirit Language’ (MSL). This language is, however, referred to by its speakers as Deep Patwa. Even though, in the 1930s, an English Creole vernacular was the most common means of communication within the community, Kramanti was used in preference to Creole at certain times. These included at Christmas time which was a prolonged period of merriment, and during the frequent stagings of the Kramanti Play. The Play, a ceremony involving the summoning of the ancestors, involves the use of Deep Patwa (Maroon Spirit Language) for communicating with the more recently dead, Jamaica born ancestors. Kramanti is employed for communication with the earliest Maroon ancestors, many of whom were born in Africa (Bilby 1983, p.38).
There is considerable discussion in the literature as to whether Kramanti can be viewed as a dead language. In one sense it is. It is a language used for communicating with the spirits of the dead. However, this is in a culture in which the dead, though absent in material form, are always present in spirit. Speaking of them is regarded as invoking their presence. This is a language used by the living as part of their normal daily communication acts. It is simply that, within the culture, normal communication networks include the dead. In this latter sense, Kramanti is a living language.

The other issue is that of the level of competence which users of Kramanti actually have. Bilby (1983, p. 38) suggests that Kramanti ‘… is not a functioning language, but rather a highly fragmentary ritual “language” consisting of a number of set phrases and expressions’. Alleyne (1988) takes only a marginally more optimistic view. He comments that though Kramanti is dying, it is not dead. He notes that the language is hardly every used in ordinary everyday contexts, but that ‘Scott’s Hall and Moore Town Maroons can carry on conversations in the old language on request, but that they use fixed and stylized expressions, and all creativity is lost’ (Alleyne 1988, pp. 126-7). This is supported by Bilby (1994). Bilby concedes that the no living Maroon retains it as a fully functioning language able to express an limitless number of ideas but nevertheless suggests that a minority of Maroons ‘… can provide English glosses for a large number of words and expressions and can communicate a wide variety of messages with Kromanti’ (Bilby 1994, p. 77).

Language Samples
Kramanti Akan (Twi-Asante)
paki apaki ‘small calabash’
sènsè asense ‘type of fowl’
kamfo nkamfo ‘type of yam’
afana afana ‘machete’
abukani abukani ‘cow’
anansi anansi ‘spider’
aprako prako ‘pig’
awisa wisa ‘pepper’
obroni oburoni ‘European, white person’
obroni o ko oburoni o ko ‘the white man has come’

The examples above show cases where Kramanti has lost the noun class prefixes, a-, o- and n-, by comparison with its Twi-Asante equivalents. We also see cases where these prefixes have been retained in both Kramanti and Twi-Asante. There are, as well, cases where it is Kramanti that has retained the historical noun class prefixes as in aprako and awisa, above. [Credit: Hubert Devonish Dept. of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica]

***There is so much more to read about Jamaica –and the part Ghanaians played –please Google –and also Google Surinam…….xx

1 comment:

  1. Well there's more that you can look at not just linguistically, but genetically. Beaing a Jamaican myself, I know of atleast three cases where jamaicans have found their lineage to be directly linked to Ghana. Moreover, it's not just fante but qalso Ashanti and Krobo peoples.You can look it up for yourself.Marcus Garvey's first wife is descneded from the Ashanti, Pearl Duncan - from the fante link: Ami Djaba the Krobo link