200501 Creativity and Resistance: Maroon Cultures in the Americas

200501 Creativity and Resistance: Maroon Cultures in the Americas

January 20, 2005

Creativity and Resistance: Maroon Cultures in the Americas, a Smithsonian Institute traveling exhibit, explores the legacy of a significant aspect of the African Diaspora.

Derived from the Spanish cimarrón, meaning “fugitive,” the term Maroon refers to Africans (and others) who escaped from the plantations and mines owned by European colonizers throughout the Americas and founded independent communities in the wilderness. These settlements, ranging in size from small groups of 10 to 20 people to powerful kingdoms with thousands of members, united people from many regions of Africa and sometimes achieved alliances with Native Americans. Over the course of three centuries, hundreds of these Maroon communities emerged throughout the Caribbean and North, Central and South America. A number of these communities still exist today.The freestanding exhibition examines the creativity, spirituality, resourcefulness and self-determination of contemporary Maroons living in Jamaica French Guiana and the Seminole community along the United States and Mexican border. Creativity and Resistance provides visitors with an exceptional opportunity to understand the history and vitality of Maroon people and the strong links between their past and present.

Jamaican Maroon leader Grandy Nanny—Nanny of the Maroons—is of such importance that her image appears on the $500 Bank of Jamaica currency note. Courtesy of Capital Foreign Exchange, Washington D.C. Carved calabash with cowrie shells made by Ndjuka woman, Santi, French Guiana, 1997. Cowrie shells for divination and “kaolin” (white clay) are used in Guianese Maroon sacred practice. Courtesy of Thomas Polimé.

Young Ndjuki boatman negotiates the rapids on the upper Tapanahony River Suriname,1990s. In addition to providing the main means of transportation in the rainforest areas where Maroons live, the river is a source of food and the fountain of life for Guianese Maroons. Photograph courtesy Thomas Polimé.

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Creativity and Resistance: Maroon Cultures in the Americas