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Maroon Culture, Maroon Language. Nicole Scott . Aims. To discuss the impact of separation on culture and language To ascertain why maroon communities adopted Creole Languages. Issues to be considered.

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Maroon Culture, Maroon Language

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Maroon Culture, Maroon Language

Nicole Scott


Aims

  • To discuss the impact of separation on culture and language

  • To ascertain why maroon communities adopted Creole Languages.


Issues to be considered

  • -What is marronage? Who is involved in the process (marronage of “salt water” slaves vs. acculturated slaves and Creole slaves

  • -Rate of marronage and nature of marronage (petit Marronage vs. grand Marronage)

  • -Extent of contacts between maroon communities and plantations

  • -Ethnic and linguistic homogeneity within the maroon population


Issues to be considered cont’d

  • Extent of contacts between maroon communities and plantations.

  • Ethnic and linguistic homogeneity within the maroon population


Issues to be considered con’t

  • Stability of maroon communities (related to efforts made by colonial administration to “hunt down” maroons, in turn related to the resources which planters were willing or forced to commit to these efforts)


What is the impact of separation on language and culture?

  • To discuss we need to become aware of the history of the maroons.


History of the Maroons

  • Maroons formed one of the oldest free black societies in the new world.

    • How?


History of the Maroons

  • Africans were brought to the Caribbean under different European authorities to work on sugar plantations.

  • Maroon communities were formed by runaways from the plantations.


History of the Maroons cont’d

  • The new societies were: -

    • tiny bands that survived less than a year

    • powerful states encompassing thousands of members. These larger communities survived for generations and even into the twenty first century.


History of the Maroons cont’d

  • The English word ‘maroon’ like the French ‘marron’ comes from the Spanish word ‘Cimarron’


History of the Maroons cont’d

  • Maroons are characterized by their history of resistance.

    • Revolts in slave factories of West Africa.

    • Mutinies during the middle passage

    • Organized rebellions

    • Day to day resistance – subtle but systematic acts of sabotage.


History of the Maroons cont’d

  • Wilderness setting of early New World Plantations made marronage and the existence of organized maroon communities an ever-present reality


History of the Maroons cont’d

  • Today their descendants form semi-independent enclaves in several parts of the Caribbean.

    • They remain proud of their maroon origins

    • They remain faithful to unique cultural traditions


History of the Maroons cont’d

  • Marronage – two types

    • Petit marronage – repetitive or periodic truancy with temporary goals such as visiting a relative or lover on a neighbouring plantation.

    • Grand marronage – individual fugitives banding together to create independent communities of their own.


History of Maroons cont’d

  • Grand marronage was a chronic plague in the plantations. It posed military threats and economic threats.

  • Harsh penalties were often imposed


History of Maroons cont’d

  • “If a slave runs away into the forest in order to avoid work for a few weeks, upon his being captured his Achilles tendon is removed for the first offence, while for a second offence…his right leg is amputated in order to stop his running away; I myself am a witness to slaves being punished in this way” [18th cent. visitor to Suriname]

  • Castration, slowly roasted to death etc.


History of the Maroons cont’d

  • To be viable maroon communities had to be almost inaccessible.

  • Villages typically located in inhospitable “out- of -the- way” areas.

    • Jamaica – Cockpit Country (deep canyons, limestone sinkholes, water and good soil scarce

    • Guianas - impenetrable jungles


History cont’d

  • Locales often inhospitable for troops and original runaways.

    • …the harsh natural environments of early communities at first presented terrifying obstacles and it was only with a great deal of suffering and by bringing to bear the full range of their collective cultural experience and creativity that adaptation was finally achieved.


History cont’d

  • Alienation

  • Lack of adequate resources

    • Few tools (hoes, axes, guns)


History cont’d

  • Some maroon communities in the Caribbean

    • Cuba

    • Hispaniola

    • French Guyana

  • Suriname -Saramacca / Bush Negros

  • Jamaica – Leeward and Windward

    • Leeward (Trelawny Town, Accompong)

    • Windward (Scotts Hall, Charles Town, Nanny Town, Moore Town and adjacent villages)


History cont’d

  • Economic adaptation – They succeeded in

    • Horticulture

      • Manoic (cassava)

      • Yams

      • Sweet potatoes (other root crops)

      • Bananas

      • Plantains

      • Dry rice

      • Maize, ground nuts, squash, beans, sugar cane, vegetables, tobacco cotton.


History cont’d

  • Hunting

  • Fishing

  • Some areas did not achieve this degree of economic independence or were uninterested in seeking instead they lived directly off plantation society


History cont’d

  • Maroons remained unable to manufacture certain essential items (guns, tools, pots cloth). This kept these societies unavoidably dependent on the very plantation societies from which they were trying to isolate themselves.

  • Internal organization – assured absolute loyalty of its members. (Loyalty, women etc)

    • E.g. desertion punishable by death.


History cont’d

  • The least acculturated slaves were among those most prone to marronage (escaped within the first hour/days of arrival in groups).

  • An unusually high proportion of Creoles and highly acculturated African-born slaves ran off.


History cont’d

  • Typical community composed of

    • Africans (literally just off the ship – middle aged men). Highly acculturated Africans.

    • Unskilled plantation slaves born in Africa but who lived for years on the plantation – bulk of the maroon community – embittered slaves.

    • Creoles –strong ideological commitments against the system of slavery


History cont’d

  • Contributions to culture and language was from newly arrived Africans, who represented a variety of languages and cultures, as well as by long term African born slaves and Creoles with a wide range of individual adjustments to slavery, orientations to reality and ways of handling problems.


History cont’d

  • They shared however a recently forged Afro-American culture and a strong ideological commitment to things which were African.

    • Environment alien and hostile but the maroons were equipped to deal with the alienation and hostility. Africans in the Caribbean who at first often shared little more than a common continent of origin and the experience of enslavement developed distinctly Afro-American ways with life from the very beginning.


History cont’d

  • Maroons drew on their diverse African heritages in building their cultures. Unlike other Afro-Americans who were unable to pass on integrated patterns of traditional culture, maroons could and did look to Africa for deep-level organizational principles relating to cultural realms e.g. naming children, systems of justice


History cont’d

  • Practices from different areas were incorporated more or less harmoniously into new developing systems in the Caribbean.

  • Maroon cultures contain a number of direct continuities from particular tribes e.g. military techniques, recipes for warding off sorcery (usually found throughout the Caribbean)


History cont’d

  • Physical isolation

    • Marronage created a context in which Africans communicated largely with Africans.

    • Isolation encouraged the development of a distinct culture and language(s).

    • Similarity in purpose – survival outside of the jurisdiction of Europeans—encouraged linguistic similarity


A look at Jamaica

  • The Jamaican Maroons

    • Focus on Moore Town

      • There are a number of complex linguistic phenomena closely tied to the ceremonial sphere in the community.

        • Basis of linguistic complexity - Kromanti ceremonies center around the possession of participants by ancestral spirits.

          Ancestors have their own form of speech, different from that of living maroons.


A Look at Jamaica

  • Kromanti Play must involve only the language of the living but that of the dead as well.

    • Language of the living, normal discourse –Jamaican Creole

    • Language of ancestors – form of Jamaican Creole but sharply different from the most basilectal form of JC. Unintelligible to non maroons and those unfamiliar with Kromanti Play


A Look at Moore Town cont’d

  • Living speak to each other during Kromanti play in JC

  • Address those in possession –deep talk (so visiting ancestors will understand)

  • Possessed addressing unpossessed or possessed use MSL

  • Kromanti used to communicated with the earliest ancestors, many of whom were born in Africa.


  • Characteristics of “Deep Language”

    • Vowel Epithesis e.g. waka ‘walk’

    • Liquids e.g. pre ‘place’

    • Metathesis of Liquids

    • Vowel nasalization e.g. grãfa ‘grandfather’

    • Na –verb ‘to be,’ locative preposition

    • Verbal markers

    • Interrogatives and personal pronouns


Conclusion

  • With a rare freedom to extrapolate African ideas and adapt them to changing circumstances, maroon groups include, what are in many respects both the most meaningful African and the most truly ‘alive” of all Afro-American cultures.


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