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Moore Town is a Maroon settlement located in the Blue Mountains and John Crow Mountains of Portland, Jamaica, accessible by road from Port Antonio. Formerly known as New Nanny Town, Moore Town was founded in 1739 when the Peace Treaty was signed between the English and the Windward Maroons. This treaty allotted the Moore Town Maroons 500 acres. In 1781 the initial 500 acres was augmented with another 1270 acres. This larger plot of land was to be named Muretown, as recorded in survey documents, but due to a misunderstanding was named Moore Town. What is now known as Moore Town is the joint jurisdictions of New Nanny Town and Muretown.
As of 2009 Moore Town has a reported population of 1,106.
The colonization of Jamaica by the British in 1655 led to an influx of Western and Central Africans into the country through the slave trade. Consequently, a number of the enslaved escaped to various parts of the mountains, joining another group that had been released by the Spanish during the Invasion of Jamaica. These people became known as the Jamaican Maroons. This migration disrupted the plantation system run by the British, resulting in a declaration of war between the Maroons and British. After approximately 80 years of warfare, the Maroons controlled a sizeable amount of the eastern parts of Jamaica. In response, the British conceded to their demands for freedom and recognized their autonomy. This resulted in Cudjoe, one of the Maroon Leaders, signing the Peace Treaty of 1739 between the British on the behalf of the Maroons. This treaty allowed them numerous benefits, including tax-free lands throughout the island. These lands are still home to succeeding generations of the original Maroons.
The community of Moore Town was founded by one of the Maroon Leaders, sister to Cudjoe, Nanny. Nanny refused to sign the Peace Treaty of 1739, but acquiesced in the uneasy truce that followed. After the signing of the treaty the people under Nanny’s jurisdiction split into two groups, with one half migrating with her brother Quao and the other half relocating to New Nanny Town, which is now known as Moore Town. Nanny would later request more land to be allotted to Moore Town, resulting in the acreage of Moore Town far exceeding any of the other Maroon settlements in Jamaica.
Following the British recognition of Maroon settlements, British Superintendents were assigned as diplomats to settlements to maintain good relations between the Maroons and British. The most notable Superintendent for Moore Town was Lt. George Fuller, who held this position between 1809 and 1823. Since Jamaica’s independence from the British in 1962, the Government of Jamaica has recognized the sovereignty of the Maroons. Their recognition aligns with the terms of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) of particular note the "right for self-government in matters relating to local affairs".
Moore Town’s head of state is given the title of Colonel, which alternatively is referred to as a chief. The system of election is unique in that no individual acting in the capacity of Colonel has pursued the position; instead, they are approached with the opportunity and elected through acclamation. The community is governed by a Colonel who is assisted by a Maroon Council that consists of 24 members.
In 1995, Wallace Sterling was elected as Colonel of Moore Town, and currently serves as Colonel. Prior to his election Colonel C.L.G Harris served for the period 1964-1995, and prior to him Colonel Ernest Downer served from 1952-1964.
The Maroons of Moore Town have maintained a dialectal variant of the Akan Languages Twi, Asante and Fante. The Moore town variant is known as Kromanti. The name Kromanti is derived from Coromantyn, at the time a slaving sea port located on the Golden Coast of what is now known as Ghana. Prior to the 20th century Kromanti was spoken conversationally in Moore Town but since the 1930’s its fluency has dwindled among the younger members of the community. It is now reserved for ceremonial and religious purposes. In conjunction with Kromanti, Jamaican Maroon Creole makes up what is considered Maroon Spirit Language, or MSL.
The Kromanti Play is a ceremonial event that employs the use of Kromanti to communicate with ancestral spirits. It is one of the few linguistic features that uniquely separates the Moore Town Maroons from the other Windward bands. Due to its diminished fluency and the accompanying threat of cultural heritage being lost, Kromanti has been recognized in 2003 by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Maroon Music is an important aspect of the Maroon culture and each of the Maroon Towns have their own distinct music genres, styles and instruments used in performance. The Moore Town Maroons use several types of drums, along with drumming styles, to accompany their music making. Moore Town is the only community of Maroons who also utilizes drums in “speech mode” to perform Drum-Language. Drum-Language is used to communicate with the spirits of their ancestors, as well as call ceremonies to order. Of the varying drums there is the Aprinting, a duo of long cylindrical drums. There is also a supporting drum known as the “Rolling Drum”, and a lead drum known as the “Cutting Drum”. The drums are not played by just any musician, and those who play them are given special titles that reflect their ability to do so.
Accompanying the drums are other instruments, such as Iron, Abaso Tik, and Kwat.
Across all the Maroon Communities, musicians use an instrument known as the Abeng, a wind instrument fashioned from the horn of a cow. The Abeng can produce two pitches, and is used to perform “Abeng-Language”. Abeng-Language played a major role in communication during the first and second Maroon War, as its high pitch allowed it to convey complex messages across far distances.