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Jamaica's Unconquered Maroons

Accompong prepares for its annual January celebrations

Observer Reporter

Maroons, led by their leader Colonel Sydney Peddie (right), set off on their march to Nanny's tomb at last year's January 6 Maroon celebrations.
FROM the Kindah Tree where Captain Cudjoe once held his war briefings over 200 years ago, to the wailing sound of the Abeng mixed with the rhythmic beat of the Gumbay Drum, the Accompong Maroon Settlement in St Elizabeth is alive with the spirit of ancestors.

Every January 6, the Maroons pay homage to their ancestors in a celebration held to commemorate the birthday of the great Maroon Warrior Captain Cudjoe who defeated the British army and who later signed the Peace Treaty with the British, giving the Maroon People land and their freedom.

A little boy plays with a traditional Maroon drum at last year's January 6 Maroon celebrations.
This year the festival will be held over two days beginning January 5 and run until 6, 2002 and will mark a return to the traditional forms of the Maroon, such as craft, food, drumming, dance and choral groups.

Sidney Peddie, Colonel of the Accompong Maroons, explains that the community has been working with the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), to improve the quality of the festival and to assist in developing the community as a community-based and cultural heritage tourist attraction.

In preparation for the festival, Peddie notes that TPDCo has assisted with the training of tour guides, and of persons in craft and in the Team Jamaica Programme.

Through the effort of the TPDCo, the community now has a brand new entrance way and a 'bickle' village which will be a food court for traditional cuisine.

According to Shirley Lindo Pennant, community development consultant engaged by TPDCo to work in the village, TPDCo is mainly concerned with ensuring that the public aspect of the festival is better organised and more smoothly run.

"The private ceremony in which the Maroons perform their rituals will not be touched by TPDCo as these are in keeping with sacred Maroon traditions handed down over many generations," she says.

Lindo Pennant says that the gate and the bickle village would enhance the organisation of the festival.

Recently TPDCo and the Community Development Committee of Accompong staged a dry run to assess the preparation for the celebrations. The day was marked by a series of competitions held to unearth talent for the festival. Members of the community displayed their talents in the visual and performing arts, culinary, and craft. The best performances were selected for the January celebrations.

The Maroons are also busy painting and carrying out other preparation work for the festival.

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