A Maroon finds his roots

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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IT was a small but enthusiastic audience which gathered at the Institute of Jamaica in downtown Kingston last Friday, for a screening of the documentary Akwantu.


Written, produced, directed and narrated by Jamaican-born, US resident Roy Anderson, Akwantu is a journey of self-discovery as he traces his roots which are anchored in the Accompong region of St Elizabeth.


Anderson recalls always hearing his grandfather say: "We come from up suh" -- referring to the hills of St Elizabeth.


"At first I asked my older relatives but was not satisfied with the information I got. I really wanted to get to the heart of who I was and where I was from," Anderson told the Jamaica Observer in a telephone interview from Toronto, Canada, where he was attending screenings for Akwantu.


His search led him to the Family History Centre at the Church of Latter-day Saints in New Jersey. The Mormons have established this resource facility at their Salt Lake City headquarters in Utah.


Anderson was able to trace his family and found his grandfather's birth certificate and wedding certificate of his great-grandmother, Caroline Campbell (nee Rowe), a Maroon who went by the name Cum Pigeon.


With all this information, Anderson decided that such a rich history should be given much larger treatment and in 2009 he began documenting it on film.


"Akwantu is a uniquely personal story, but this becomes the sub-plot to highlight the story of the Maroons which are a significant part of Jamaica's history, which I want to share with the rest of the world," said Anderson.


His research not only took him to all the Maroon communities in Jamaica, but to Africa. Anderson says the Maroons are not given their due in Jamaica.


"We have a proud history which should be celebrated. The story of the Maroons has not risen to the stage where the world knows about them. Not enough credence is given to the Maroons. For many, the Haitian Revolution was the only revolt of its kind, yet the Maroons fought the British long before."


The documentary cost approximately US$300,000 to produce, but Anderson has no regrets, declaring that he will use it to set the record straight about his ancestors.


In addition to screenings across the globe, Anderson is hoping to build a distribution network for Akwantu, which is available on DVD via Amazon.com.


He is also working with local private sector companies to have the documentary available in schools and public libraries.


Anderson's next project is a film on Maroon leader and National Hero, Nanny.


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