Bohio made by Austin Rochester
Haitinax (Ceiling) of Bohio
Two passersby of the Deleon family group.
Day 6: September 10 (Thursday)
[Accompong Maroon, St. Elizabeth]
Ken and Jake write:
Time is running short on us. In the morning we tell Winnie that we’re not going to stay a third night but move off to Accompong, the Maroon village
in Cockpit country. We launch—going through the local towns until Black River, then Lacovia, Magotty (where I took some shots of the train depot where Emperor Selassie had greeted crowds in 1966) and finally to Accompong. There is a relatively
new Colonel in Accompong, Ferron Williams, although he was not presently there. He’s apparently living part-time in a place called Dias in Hanover. Ken, of course, knew all of the major figures including ex-Colonel “Teacher” Cawley and individuals
he’s known or worked with in years past, i.e., Briggy, Ba Wood, Lawrence Rowe (the grandson of Mann Rowe, a former Secretary of the Accompong Maroons and legendary oral historian, whom Ken knew well).
We start out with a tour of
the village starting with the first and most powerful “seal ground” where the influence of the ancestors is felt. Seals grounds are sacred spaces used for healing, to receive protection against evil spirits and (traditionally) to receive
guidance in battle against attacks from the British. The house right in back of the seal ground has a gate with two red-gold-and-green lions on the posts, a red “obeah flag” atop a pole and a three-level seal with glasses of water. We walk to the
Christian burial ground (the main Maroon community cemetery) where the Presbyterian church (check the photos of view posts) is revered as the oldest building in the town, but is also blamed by some for taking away the African names of Accompong.
After leaving the Christian cemetery we find ourselves in an impromptu reasoning with two Dreadlocks Maroons—one named “Fattah”—as well as a tall brown man who I think was named “Tallest.” Shortly afterwards we’re
joined by Lawrence Rowe. Jorge is introduced as a Taino-Arawak from the Dominican Republic—and he hands out the CILP cards and tells those assembled that “We’re looking for the Afro-Taino history that’s never been highlighted.”
He adds that “We want to hear from the Maroon people themselves about the Taino heritage” and we explain that’s why Jorge wanted to come to Accompong.
A reasoning ensues, part of which I get on tape. There’s much
said about the fact that Accompong is husbanding the Taino heritage. There is the direct assertion that they know they have the Taino heritage in Accompong. (This is in keeping with oral traditions earlier collected by Ken, as well as a statement given to
Farika Birhan by an Accompong Maroon named Uriah Rowe, which she recorded verbatim in notes she made for the research she did in Accompong in 1991 for the Festival of American Folklife: “The Maroons of Accompong are aware of the Arawak presence in our
past. The Maroons are the only people in the island who have survived all the stages of the country’s history. They keep the Arawak presence alive in our history.”) Ken points out to the gathering that he heard Mann Rowe (who was acknowledged
as Accompong’s chief oral historian and was a Maroon under-officer during the 1950s and 60s) talk about the Arawaks and Maroons joining together. One of the brothers points out that Mann Rowe’s wife had “Arawak features.” Mann Rowe
told Ken that the Accompong Maroons always considered themselves “the skin of the island,” as they came from the first people here—that “Maroons and Arawaks joined together to become the first people of Jamaica” (see True-Born
Maroons). Other elders attested to this. Fattah chimes in that “Taino was here before the Africans come and we join with them to create this force.” The Taino, he says, “played a great part in the African life cause they really show
the Africans the area” (i.e., geography/environment). In other words, parts of Maroon knowledge didn’t just come from Africa. Some ecological knowledge and botanical knowledge would have come from the indigenous inhabitants. This seems
to be a point made by the Maroons and one overlooked by official histories. He continues with the statement that “Mi myself is more Taino than African”—not sure at what level of metaphor to take this. Then—having heard
that I have a history with the House of Nyahbinghi, Fattah says to me, “Tell the Nyahbinghi that there’s no repatriation without the return of the bones of Nanny and Cudjoe to Africa! The first ship that go back suppose to have the bones
of Nanny and Cudjoe.” Fattah insists in a rather outspoken Rasta way that for us to get the “proper information” we have to deal with people who are “spiritually inspired”—otherwise we’ll get a “bag
Near the end of this reasoning—which I have on tape—Lawrence Rowe, grandson of Mann Rowe, comes into the conversation. There’s mention of a black man who dresses with feathers called
“Chief Payanka.” (Some of those we talk to pronounce it as “Payanki.”) He was based for a time in the nearby (part-Maroon) village named Quickstep and has apparently caused some commotion around the place—including
shooting someone’s cow with a bow and arrow. (This later occasions a discussion by Ken about an Aluku Maroon who saved the life of a French explorer in the late 19th century who went on tour in France—killing a cow at some distance with
his bow and arrow as part of an exhibition of his heroic talents: see K. Bilby 2004 “The Explorer as Hero: Le Fidele Apatou in the French Wilderness. New West Indies Guide 78(3-4): 197-227). Ken notes that with regard to the reference to Chief
Payanka, some of the Maroons were expressing skepticism of Jorge’s Taino identity off to the side. We later learn that it was Lawrence Rowe who brought Chief Payanka on a visit to Accompong. Lawrence defends him as “a good man” who is involved
in healing and raising consciousness. Others, however, seem skeptical, and yet others state outright that they feel he is an imposter pretending to be Taino.
As part of the taped reasoning, the brown man named Tallest pursues a kind of logic-based
argument (with no basis in oral tradition, he says) about relations between the Taino and Maroons. He argues that Africans were “coming to a place they had never seen before and knew nothing about the place” (strictly speaking, yes; but many had
knowledge of forest environs and warfare). He emphasized that they “have a war on their ass” and had to figure out quickly what to do. “You need a lot of assistance….West Africa is not like the Cockpit country. Who wanted freedom
went for freedom in unity. We were alongside these [Taino] people. There is no way we could have survived here for so long without these people. No Way!”
Tallest also introduces another argument about likely warfare that ensued
between the Taino and the Africans based on either Africans taking their women or on the “negative effects that Africans had on them as a ‘pure’ people who were not immune to diseases like them [the Africans].” He argues that the more
interbreeding Africans did with the Taino, the more it would cause them to die out. “Maybe some of the Africans fought them for their women.” Ken rejoins that this is reasoning from logic but that it should be supplemented by what can be known
from the ‘older heads’ via oral histories. I sense skepticism from Tallest in dealing with the histories from the older heads—but he does seem interested in being able to access what the Smithsonian will compile from the whole CILP project.
At some point, Kenroy, our official tour guide, breaks off the reasoning and urges us to move along with the village tour. By this point Ken is wrapped up by Lawrence Rowe who had an argument about Ken being somehow involved in his photograph appearing
in some museum (without compensation) in the U.S. It turns out to be one of Ken’s former students, Daniel Neely, to which this is traceable—if at all. We tour by the “House of Dread” – the site where Maroon Rasta musicians (Nyabinghi
drummers and singers) in Accompong lived and practiced. Two of them – who both died in accidents – are buried in the yard (contra to the communal burial style in the village). We pass stands of wild lilies and ping-wing macca which is used as border/fences
to keep man and animals out; and we arrive at the Kindah Tree where the January 6 ceremony is held annually for Maroons and the general public (one portion of the annual ceremony, however, which occurs in a separate area known as “Old
Town,” is open to Maroons only). This is quite a beautiful spot which provides a vista that looks off into what seems the endless Cockpit country. There is a circular bohio-style structure with a thatched roof below us which is used by the Maroons to
prepare herbs. I assume this is done as a communal activity but should have confirmed this by asking. According to Ken, the structure, which is in disrepair, appears to be related to a cooperative herb garden project that was funded by a number of foreign
(non-Jamaican) organizations several years ago but has since gone defunct.
After the Kindah Tree, we pass one of the communal cemeteries of Accompong and Kenroy notes the use of calabash and Joseph Coat to border the graves.
The calabash or “paki” [an Akan-derived word] has significance not only because it is used to carry water, but also it was the container in which Maroon blood and British blood were mixed when the treaty with Kojo was signed. (Several of the Maroons
we talked with in Charles Town also mentioned that the paki has spiritual and medical significance; children who stammered had to be fed from it; after this the stammering would go away. Thus, the paki was seen as “a kind of medicine for stammering.”)
We also get confirmation from Kenroy that the Accompong Maroons use cacoon just like the Charles Town and Scotts Hall Maroons. He tells us that they use it to prepare special ceremonial meals by boiling
it. I ask if there is a special name for this meal; no—they just call it the “cacoon meal.” As to processing of the cacoon—they first soak it in water for nine days, changing the water each day to remove the poison. (I assume the soaking
involves taking it out of the shell, but didn’t confirm that.) Says it was used by Kojo to determine if water was poisoned—the cacoon would swell and burst open if it was. He notes this use because “the British were always trying to do something
evilous to the water.” From this he goes on to note that “Each Maroon family had a water hole by their homes that they dug out to collect rainwater.” They would plant ‘kus-kus’—a fragrant grass—around
the water hole to keep the water cool. This same grass could be used to prevent erosion. Ken adds that the same plant was also used to make a commercially marketed Jamaican perfume [“khus-khus”] and KenRoy ratifies that sound. Water holes were
not good during the dry season when Maroons would have to walk to local springs to collect water.
At the penultimate point of our tour around the village, we stop in a yard that sells drinks, crackers, cigarettes and the whole range of nix-and-nocks.
(Kenroy has chosen to make this particular stop because Ken had asked him earlier if there were any living relatives of Uriah Rowe [“Ba U”] who still knew how to make hammocks from the “trumpet tree.” This yard, Kenroy explained as
we approached, belongs to one such relative, named Wilfred; the house where Ba U and his wife [who passed away just a few days before our arrival] lived is located right next door to this shop.) We ask about tobacco and get Wilfred (who is the shop keeper’s
husband) to demonstrate how jackass rope is made and the different blends of tobacco (grabba) in it.
The common Jamaican
term “jackass rope” does not appear to be used in Accompong, at least at present; people simply call this type of twisted tobacco leaves /tubáako/, or in more current parlance, grabba. One variety that is called something like “red
blend” is stronger and more expensive than normal tobacco. We purchase the specimen from him. Jorge also engages Wilfred (a relative of Uriah Rowe) about bark hammocks and whether any still exist around the village. Apparently not, but Jorge commissions
one from him that will be made from trumpet or mahoe tree bark. At one point, I see the shop keeper who appears to be Wilfred’s wife come to the door of the house with a large kali bud. She sees me eyeing it and nods for me to take a look inside. Inside
is a middling cache of ganja buds laid out on a table to which she invites my inspection. Outside, Ken is shown an Accompong calendar (specially printed by a local entrepreneur) which has pictures of the annual January 6th celebration held in the
village. I notice Mama Gloria Sims (“MauMau G”), a Rastawoman who self-identifies as a “Trelawny Town Maroon” and lives in Kingston, in one of the shots.
On the road in Acompong
School Children at Accompong
Discussion follows between Jorge and a number of youth who are in the yard and who are boiling breadfruit sap to use as glue to trap parrots when they perch on branches—apparently something that is done quite frequently here. Jorge spends a good
time with this group discussing how to make feather headdresses—presumably from parrot feathers. After we depart from this yard we end the tour by re-entering the Accompong museum. This is filled with artwork and a section with artifacts like woven baskets,
ceramics, tools, examples of the gumbe drum, a large wall photo of George Huggins—the Accompong drum-maker (who is different from their master drummer, a man called Jah Youth who has taken over from the older drummers Ken has recorded
(see Drums of Defiance, Folkways Recordings). Ken and I take photos in the museum and then are introduced to Briggy—a local who makes jewelry from beads like “Job’s tears”, a kind
of nut they call ‘nickel,’ horse eyes, and cacoon. This kind of natural jewelry is made all over Jamaica and, for that matter, much of the Caribbean. I’m disappointed when I see his wares because he’s painted all of them with shellac
or some kind of varnish. This makes them shiny, but it also destroys the natural quality of materials. I reluctantly give him my opinion. Jorge, however, does the politic thing—patronizing him by purchasing two of his necklaces. (This display of wares
is all set up as part of the standardized historical eco-tour around the village. Kenroy—who is quite good as a guide—made note to us that we would be introduced to this individual as a way of understanding what use Maroons currently make of local
resources. It is, of course, an example of the commodification end of the whole experience.)
Next stop is a courtesy visit to ‘Teacher’ Cawley, one of the former colonels. We’re accompanied on this visit by George Huggins, Ba
Wood, and Briggy. Jorge engages the ex-colonel in talk about hammocks—and the latter tells him that he used to have a bark hammock that he made himself, but that they’re no longer made as a part of normal activity. There’s talk about the
Taino connections. Jorge carefully inspects the hammock that the ex-Colonel is sitting in while we talk. Cawley says that he himself made the hammock out of store-bought rope, supposedly using the same design as the hammocks he used to make out
of tree bark.
Kenroy makes arrangements for us to stay in the house of a local man who patiently waits for us in the restaurant where we are preparing to eat. This is a little eatery-bar located adjacent to where we’re staying in a spot
that might pass for the village square. During the preparations for dinner Ken’s time is monopolized on a terrace outside the shop by another of the former colonels, Meredie Rowe. As an ‘inside-outsider’, Ken is the ideal person for a “plaintive
download” of gossip and local grievances associated with the current colonel’s administration and he’s apparently getting plenty of this. This ex-colonel apparently wants to talk with us as well but Briggy and Ba Wood have hooked onto Jorge
and me, and an appropriate opening does not end up presenting itself for such an intervention. News of our arrival has also reached the current colonel, Ferron Williams—who is not presently in the village but resides part-time in Hanover in a place called
Dias close to where we intend to travel the following day.
After dinner we retire to our house and are shown the facilities by the owner. The owner points out the shower stall in his bathroom to us with particular pride—it’s got a
radio built into it. I’m disappointed it lacks WiFi. As we settle into the place it becomes clear that our arrival in the village is being treated as a special social event, especially since we’re with Ken who has worked here previously. As we
settle in around the table, Briggy and Ba Wood come in and take their place. Sensing the need for the medium of sociability, I give someone money for a Q [half pint] of whites [rum] and some Pepsi. After the magical elixir arrives, Ba Wood pours out a bottle
cap full and flashes it around the room—establishing the proper ambience. Short work is made of the rum. George Huggins arrives and I get a full taped reasoning from him. In addition, the burglar-barred veranda is also filling up with young men—and
the ex-colonel who wanted our time is also lurking outside, ‘shubbing in’ his head from time to time. In the course of time Ba Wood and Briggy outline for Ken the recent murder of the official Accompong abeng player—a man with whom Ken was
familiar. There is talk of an inappropriate land deal that involved the abeng player, a white American, and one of the ex-colonels, apparently generating considerable resentment by some. A picture is painted of the greediness of the abeng player resulting
in his murder. The perpetrator is apparently known or suspected, but it appears that without hard evidence no action will result. (They point out that under “Maroon law,” as outlined in the treaty, murder is the only crime that is not to be tried
and punished by the Maroons themselves in their own community; if a person is found guilty of
murder internally, that person is to be sent to the outside courts for the Jamaican government to deal with; in the current case, a group of Maroons
tried to do this, but the outside court found that they did not have enough evidence to proceed with a trial in an outside Jamaican court.)
Later, Lawrence Rowe arrives and comes into the room where Jorge, Ken, I, George Huggins, Briggie
and Ba Wood are reasoning. Lawrence is a tall, gangly Dreadlocks man, perhaps in his late thirties with large floppy oversized hands that would be the envy of any power forward in the NBA. He’s also a ‘dramatist’ and man-of-words who clearly
likes to command the attention of whatever gathering he happens to be in. He positions himself next to me—invading my personal space and far too close for my liking—as he rolls out his views on local events and the Taino heritage. This was a performance
that I should have recorded, but didn’t have another tape close at hand. Among other things, Lawrence points out that he knows the Taino heritage comes originally from the Indian Ocean via Africa—along with the fact that African
people were here before the Europeans—something that I’ve heard before from people like Mama Gloria Simms who, like Lawrence, credits Africans reaching the Caribbean before Europeans and knowing ways of reaching the Caribbean shorter than one would
The reasoning rolls on and I can see that our guests would stay until morning if we were willing to continue. Around midnight I indicate that I’m going to bed—others are free to do as they wish, but this disperses the gathering.
Lawrence makes a point of announcing that he’ll be back tomorrow morning so that Jorge and Ken can purchase examples of his special craft work. Not to leave me out, he tells me that I should “hold” [purchase] one of his works too.
Kenroy our cultural interpreter at Accompong
Briggy - Accompong Artist
Lawarence- Un-official Historian at Accompong
Acompong men preparing "pitch" used to capture parrots. A custom found on other islands of the Caribbean as well
Jack Ass Rope
Jorge Estevez writes:
My impressions of Acompong are rather mixed. There is a multiplicity to the inhabitants identities that I have never seen before. They are extremely proud of their African heritage, in fact they seem thelves more as African
than Jamaican. At least that was my impression.
Upon our arrival to the area, I was hoping to avoid using Taino, or Cacique as for my own personal introductions. I chose rathhowever to keep my necklaces, some feather work on my person mostly
to see where their curiosity would lead, and secondly I always wear Native iconographies on my person.
Our guide at Acompong, Kenroy, was very friendly and quite curios and knowledgeable of Acompong history and culture. Kenroy Ken, Jake, and I
stopped by a crowd of men whom appear to gather in front of a watering hole, a shop that serves liquour, beer etc. Ken and Jake engage in conversation with some of the men. Some of it was rather funny, some of it seemed to be rather “ultra-Afro-centric”.
I have learned from past experiences not to engage people of this mindset as it leads nowhere.
Later that day Jake reveals that one of them men was skeptical of my Taino heritage. In fact in some conversations, one man, by the name of Lawarence assured
us that the Taino had originally arrived from Africa!
I purchased some necklaces from Briggy, a man with the warmest smile and friendly nature, and offer to buy a traditional hammock from one of the locals. (PENDING)
During the evening there
is a small get together at the home we rented (no hotels in the area). it was great to see Jake and especially Ken conversing in Jamaican. Lawrence makes an interesting comment ; " we can tell where in Africa people come from just by looking at their features.
Briggy and myself are Ashanti, Kenroy is Ibengi (?)". I took this to mean that although they are a mixture of Taino, and multiple African tribes, they feel they can still discern where individuals originate from. It is at this point that Lawrence adds
that the Taino came from Africa at some point. This is similar to Afro-centic views that all dark skinned people are African in my opinion.
Acompong is indeed very revealing. Certain aspects of their material culture are indeed of Taino extraction.
While it can be surmised that people living in a certain location will gradually utilize and “invent” the same usage for materials native to their landscape as did their precursors, they cannot in my eyes re-invent everything exactly as it was.
For example the Maroon at Acompong have a tradition surrounding what they call “Cacoon” which is a large seed from a tree that grows near rivers , lakes or streams in high country. The seed is poisonous. The Taino people called this seed SAMO and
learned how to extract the poison to make food, toys, necklaces, etc from the seed. Maroons must have learned of all the seeds uses from their Taino ancestors. How else would the maroons replicate the very same uses? The Cacoon, or Samo as it is
known in other islands is still used for these same purposes in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico. NOTE: Acompong is indeed a place worth further study
Day 7, September 11 (Friday)
[Lucea, Kingsvale, Dias, Cauldwell, Grange, Hanover]. We depart relatively early from Accompong, around 8:30-9:00. This is only after the proprietor for the house comes for payment and we get a check from Brigie and Lawrence Rowe—who
sells each of us a goat-skin ‘sintin’ with Job tears, nickel that is used to hold a lighter—apparently it’s his particular craft specialty. Going out we get jelly coconuts in a sack from Ba-Wood who may have made an early morning trod
to collect them. Anyway, we’re now off via country roads toward Montego Bay through various little villages that are all part of Maroon country. We reach Mobay, turn west/southwest for Lucea to check with “Miss Cutie”—a contact I have
from Daive Dunkley, a Jamaican historian who is married to Ms. Cutie’s daughter. We reach into Lucea (parish of Hanover) sometime around 12:00-12:30 and get “reeled in” to her gates by her son Jay. I note that I was there with Olive Lewin
of the Memory Bank Project at that time. Ken volunteers the name of Zena Stanhope as possibly the woman Olive worked with. Miss Cutie tells us that Zena has passed. But she’s well known because she was the JP or District Representative. Ken keenly sizes
up the methods that Olive was apparently using to gain access to traditions like cassava-making and Ettu (a post-Emancipation Yoruba-based Creole tradition specific to this area)—she simply contacted the district representatives and got them to identify
and mobilize practitioners for her to document. Ken has a list of other names from our 1989 research that he copied for the ‘documentation cards’ at the SI CFCH. Smart.
I review with Miss Cutie my experience in 1989 about seeing cassava
production in Kingvale and seeing the long woven style of cassava press that is hung from a tree branch with a weight on it. She doesn’t know of this type but sends us off to Kingsvale which is just 15 minutes down the road with her son Jay leading us
in his car. We inquire in several places in Kingsvale and people tell us they don’t know of any cassava makers. After tracking through Kingsvale we decide to try the nearby hamlet of Dias, perhaps the tradition is still alive there. At the same time
we start asking about the Ettu tradition as well—because on my 1989 trip with Olive we documented cassava-making and Ettu more-or-less in the same place. One man at a shop tell us that they don’t have that around here again. Farther down the road
at a little shop in Dias we stop for hydration (beer) and see jackass rope hanging on the back wall of the shop. No leads on cassava or Ettu, but the proprietress directs us to a “Poco church” down the end of the lane. They are
of the opinion that Ettu has died out—it’s not practices around here any longer. The person who keeps the church might be able to better direct us. The little church—entitled the “Christian Methodist Episcopal Church” is indeed
a little yard church with a seal inside. It is run by “Mother Scarlet” and has a “seal” inside with croton leaves on the alar. (The croton was brought to Jamaica from Melanesia and used by Revivalists and other churches are decorative
boundaries around the yards—they may also have spiritual significance due to their multi-colored qualities.) I believe Mother Scarlet may have had some recollection and I believe it was she who directed us to a place called “Cauldwell” a
few miles west. Ken takes her address and information (Mother Scarlett, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Williamsfield, Dias Post Office, Hanover, Jamaica). Ken elicits that she seems to be involved in the “Christian warfare” (i.e., condemnation
of ancestor worship, obeah, myal, and all things non-Christian). Before we leave the confines of her church, Mother Scarlet asks us to joins hands in prayer. In typical Jamaican Revival-Rastafari fashion she invokes the blessing and protection of the diety
to guide us on our mission.
As we step out of her yard a Rastaman in the adjacent yard hails me and tells me that I need to check the Nyahbinghi tabernacle that is just down the lane. Next trip. (But that would now make at least seven binghi tabernalces
in the island. No doubt there’s more than that.)
We get to Cauldwell and ask a woman sitting under a tree about Ettu. She jumps up and tells us she knows exactly who to take us to. We for her running down the road. She takes us to
the home of Mr. Cecil Deans who, as it turns out, is the “Bulter” (handles the drinks/rum) for Ettu services in this area. He, in turn, knows exactly where to take us—to a Mr. William Thompson—the current “Ettu
King”—who resides in Grange. (Now I’m wondering if the place Olive took us to in 1989 wasn’t Grange and not Kingsvale.) In any event, I do an audio taping of Mr. Thompson. From Mr. Thompson we learn that Ettu continues
to be celebrated in four small districts in the area: Grange, Prospect, Pell River, and Cauldwell. (Unlike Kumina in the east, this is quite a circumscribed tradition—but, like Kumina, it has also apparently become somewhat folkloricized.
Mr. Thompson and Mr. Deans tell us that they’ve performed in Kingston at the Pegasus, at Rose Hall Great House, and that the Nigerian High Commissioner has been to Grange to take in ceremonies.) He tell us they just had a celebration recently right down
the road. We also learn that a kind of “cassava pone” called “occa” [O-ka] is made for these ceremonies along with corn meal, fufu (pounded yam), rice and other things. A table is set up with drinks, including rum—called
by the Hindi name “darru”—along with food for the ancestors. These ceremonies are held for weddings, for house openings (the building and completion of a house), and in response to visions that one might receive from an ancestor.
make a point of telling Mr. Thompson that I videotaped an Ettu ceremony in 1989 and that I’d be happy to put it on a CD and send it to him. This would help since that’s over 25 years ago and he could likely identify the exact place of the ceremony
and many of the participants. I tell him that I recall the “shawling” style of dance that is done. Mr. Thompson has been the Ettu King for approximately the past 15 years. No recognition of the kind of long sleeve woven cassava press that we’re
searching for. They seem to apply the same cloth pressing manner of extracting the juice from the cassava.
We take our leave from Grange, stopping at another hydration shop before launching off on backroads that will take us to Santa Cruz. It
rains like hell on the way. As night falls I get Ken to call the Alhambra to check on whether we have reservations. We don’t—so I pull out a card from the Mandeville Hotel and
Day 8, September 12 (Saturday)
[Mandeville, Scotts Pass, Kingston]
Jake and Ken write:
We depart Mandeville around 9:00am and pass through Porus and Scotts Pass, Manchester. Scotts Pass is the site of the central Nyahbinghi tabernacle and we make a
check there. Most of the Rastafari who would normally be resident are at the Stony Gut (St. Thomas) Nyahbinghi tabernacle celebrations for Ethiopian New Year which is September 11th. We note that they’re growing cassava at Scotts Pass and
I take a picture of Jorge with a currently resident Rasta named Zion King holding the cassava roots.
In town that evening Jorge has made arrangements for us to have dinner with Dianne Golding-Frankson, a Jamaican genealogist and amateur
archaeologist who is Taino-identified. In one of the online sites that carry information about her, Dianne states:
I am well known at the National Archives and the National Library of Jamaica, I have also trolled many cemeteries throughout the island
and will do grave stone photography on request. Based in the capital city, Kingston, I travel regularly to the various repositories in Spanish Town, the old capital city of Jamaica. For thirty odd years I have worked on the genealogies of all ethnic groups
found on the island namely African, Caucasian, East Indian, Amerindian, Chinese, Lebanese, Palestinian heritages with special experience in Jewish and mixed race genealogies in Jamaica. As well as an Archaeological Consultant and have written several reports
for N.E.P.A. My resume of achievements include a published paper in the Caribbean Quarterly , with several unpublished manuscripts on my own family and on the Pre-Colombian inhabitants of the island, whom I have researched in detail for the last 18 years.
Dianne declares to us that she always knew she was Taino. She claims that her grandfather was tall with
Taino facial features.In addition Dianne shares her views on certain Taino artifacts which she suggests indicates the presence of writing—with glyphs—among the Jamaican Taino—a revolutionary finding, if accurate.
I am grateful for Dianne taking the time to meet with us. I met Dianne at the conference at Charlestown in 2014. I was struck by her devotion to the Taino cause. Her work with the glyphs she feels are a form of Taino writing are indeed
intriguing. Her full interview will be posted on Youtube in the near future.
Dianne is an archaelogist. She inspected the object I acquired from Birdman and concluded, just as I had, that it is indeed authentic and of the Mellicoide style. She
then showed us her findings on the gylphs, mostly on shell specimens she has found. While some of it is unclear, one thing is certain, the glyph on the object I purchased, matched some on her shells.
Her family history and story is amazing. I am intrigued
by the notion that people of Indigenous descent throughout the Caribbean all felt a need to "hide" their ancestry. It is indeed a common theme. Perhaps due to the regions bloody history? On a personal level I look forward to working with Dianne in the future.
I find her ideas intriguing to say the least.
Sadly my time in Jamaica has come to an end. I travel back to the States in the morning. I have one more scheduled trip to the Dominican Republic in a few weeks.
Ken and Jake have a
few locations to visit in the next few days before they too return.
It has been Amazing!
Day 9, September 13 (Sunday)
[Castleton and Scotts Hall, St. Mary]. – I get up early and take Jorge to the airport at 6:30. After breakfast Ken and I determine that we’ll head back to St. Mary in
an effort to find the rural district of Chesterfield with the hope of locating Dorcas Peccoo, the woman whom Colonel Prehay identified to us as “Arawak” or Indian. We also intend to stop and give the Deputy Colonel and the new Colonel a check and
explain why we were unable to come back earlier.
By the time we get to Castleton it’s starting to drizzle a bit. We ask for directions to Chesterfield district and find out that it’s on the other side of a walking bridge that spans
the Wag Water River and then up the hill a couple of miles. We learn this in a little shop from a young man who’s a barber. He takes us to an older woman, Miss B, on the other side of the river, whom we ask about Darcos Peccoo. She doesn’t seem
to recognize the first name or to know if there are “Indian” people up there. She suggests that, if we go up there, we ask for a woman named Miss Darling, who is one of the oldest residents and is supposed to know more about the Peccoo family,
several members of which indeed used to live up there (and a few of whom are still there).
Miss B reveals that she lived for a long time in Scotts Hall. In fact, she was married to a Maroon there, Leslie Campbell, a drummer who Ken knew
in the 1970s. Campbell is still alive and living in Scotts Hall, she said, but they are now divorced. It quickly became clear that she knew a lot about Maroon traditions. She said that she had been initiated into the Scotts Hall Maroon tradition
as a spouse, and she described some miraculous feats by Maroon Kromanti dancers that she claimed to have witnessed while living there. She also named several other Maroon individuals that Ken remembered from his stay in Scotts Hall in the 1970s.
She told us there were several Maroon or part-Maroon people living in Chesterfield and Castleton because of frequent intermarriage with individuals from Scotts Hall, which is located only a few miles away.
Although she couldn’t tell
us anything about specific individuals in the area who currently self-identify as Awarak or Taino, she mentioned a place in the vicinity of Annotto Bay known as “Gray’s Hill” or “Grayzene” (actually, Gray’s Inn) where some
“Indian” people can be found—some of whom might be Arawak descendants, she suggested. She also mentioned a place deep in the mountainous woods in St. Mary called Johncrow Hill (a place too far to walk today) where battles between the
Maroons and the British occurred, and where “Indians” were also supposed to have once lived. She went on to mention another place “far in the bush” somewhere in St. Mary, called Keith Hall, where there are known to be “Indian”
As we’re there speaking with Miss B, it starts to pour rain. This makes the hike up to Chesterfield—no doubt partly in the mud—much less attractive. Ultimately we forego it; but Miss B suggests we check a woman down the
road in Castleton who is in her eighties and was a schoolteacher. She’s said to be the oldest living Peccoo in the area. She’s likely to know anyone else named Peccoo. Our guide, Ruel Brooks (the barber who has his place under the footbridge
at Castleton) takes us to this elder woman. She turns out to be the district representative or JP (Justice of the Peace)—and her maiden name turns out to be Peccoo (her married name is Mallet, or Mallette). Despite the fact that she is a Peccoo, she
can’t help us with any Taino connections and doesn’t recall anyone named Darcos Peccoo. We do learn from her that there are two alternate spellings of the name used locally—“Peccoo” (apparently the more common one) and “Pecco.”
She also informs us that she knows of an “Indian” man named Peccoo living in the vicinity of Annotto Bay, and she suggests that we try to talk with him. We drop Ruel back at his shop and head off for Scotts Hall.
At Scotts Hall we
reconnect with Jone Walters-Williams and she calls in the new Colonel—Colonel Rudolph Pink, a relatively young man perhaps in his early 40s at most. Ken visits the house in which he lived when he spent time here, we tour the “Safri ground”
(the ceremonial dance ground called “Asafo” ground in Moore Town)—and there is much talk about getting progress (in the form of material and economic improvements) for the community. In all of this there is somewhat muted criticism of the
past colonel (Prehay) whose track record is characterized as “nothing to write home about.” (This kind of open criticism of past governments, according to Ken, is common in Jamaican Maroon politics.) As we tour the Safri ground Colonel Pink, who
is very congenial, points out medicinal plants. I was following behind him as we walked up the slope and got the distinct smell of white rum—which, as it turned out, he applied topically to himself—perhaps out of respect for/or to call the ancestral
spirits associated with that ground. When we got to the top he poured some into the hands of Miss Williams and she spread it on her face. Contacts are good and the community is certainly open to ongoing relations. We head for town around 6:30.
Day 10, September 14 (Monday)
Kingston and the Institute of Jamaica] – We end this trip with a visit to the Institute of Jamaica to view their Taino exhibition. Both Ken and I take photos (although the lighting
is bad and the images are not very clear). I’m struck by two things: the fact that none of the artifacts exhibited have provenance information associated with them (i.e., when and where they were collected), nor does the exhibit videotape that is used
to represent the Taino heritage have much contextualizing information (it does, however, include an acoustic reggae tune, “Remember the Taino,” composed by one Leah Wilmot—apparently the daughter of UWI professor of history Swithin Wilmot).
There’s no attempt to represent Taino sites, possible cultural influences, it will go without comment beyond that. Before departing, we briefly tour (for Ken’s benefit) the local version of the “Discovering Rastafari” exhibit originally
curated by me at the Smithsonian, and get a taped interview from Rastafarian artist Witter Dread on “indigenosity” as it might relate to various cultural expressions in Jamaica, i.e., Taino, Maroon, Rasta.