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Source: Claudia Gardner, Jamaica Gleaner
Some Accompong Maroons in St. Elizabeth are expressing concerns about the increasing commercialisation of their Peace Treaty Celebrations which, they contend, is threatening to devalue the long-standing tradition.
Maroon Dolphy Rowe told The Gleaner that he was disappointed with at least the past few celebrations, which have been infiltrated by the North American and popular cultures.
“In the past, the situation wasn’t like now because we had nothing like the flea market or the kinds of system with the dancehall and big heavy sound system and large amounts of people coming in – not for the celebration, but other activities,” Mr. Rowe said.
“I know it is hard to change, but I would like to see the old tradition return. The weakest part of it is that we need a leader with determination and I am not sure we are getting it,” he said.
A growing concerned
Head of the Accompong Maroons, Colonel Sydney Peddie, told The Gleaner that he too was concerned about the issue.
“It is true. For some number of years, it has gradually changed into a kind of a flea market. But we intend to bring it back to sell cultural items and crafts and sell traditional foods. Going back to our roots means we will gradually have to get rid of the ‘bend down market’ and hardware supplies coming here. It won’t be easy, because it has been going on so long, but gradually we can get it to return to that stage,” he said.
Maroon Chief to blame
But former Colonel Meredie Rowe said the Maroon chief was at fault, as he should not have allowed the peddling of non-Jamaican items during the celebrations.
“There is not any attempt made by him to stop it. More and more we have higglers coming selling North American products. He is destroying the culture and custom. I spoke about getting rid of it as long as four years ago because it doesn’t have any connection with our indigenous stuff. My cousin (Colonel Peddie) is far from reality,” Mr. Rowe said.
“Visitors will (soon) not need to come to Accompong. When they visit, they need to see something authentic and indigenous in terms of our way of life, our dishes, our arts. They see those foreign things the higglers are selling in Montego Bay, Negril – everywhere. We have indigenous stuff we can use. You don’t even see a calabash, a carving or anything.”
Vice-chairman of the Ghanaian Association in Jamaica, Professor Daniel Antwi, said the flood of foreign items, could detract from the real purpose of the celebrations.
“My worry is that, with the advent of globalisation – like here when you walk around, you are seeing American T-shirts and jeans and so on – is how are we going to pass on this rich tradition to the younger generation? That’s my worry,” he said.