Nanny, the Ashanti freedom fighter of Jamaica

Deported from the Ashanti Kingdom (presently Ghana), Nanny has shined by her resistance to slavery in the 18th century, based on the African traditional values. Sentenced to forced labour with her four brothers, she escaped with them from the plantations to settle in the mountains, taking other men, women and children along. She founded there an autonomous and free community, the Maroons and built up a locality, Nanny Town of which she became the Chief.


Like in Brazil with Zumbi and like in Haiti with Bookman Duty Zamba, the resistance movement of Nanny stood on the African Religion. By virtue of the matriarchal system of the continent, she was the leader of her community and the chief priestess of Obeah, the local spiritual movement. Having sworn an oath to Nanny, empowered by the vital energy of Onyankopong (Creator in Twi, ashanti language) and protected by the mountainous relief, the Maroons set an efficient Army that led raids in the plantations in order to free slaves.

They were camouflaging themselves with tree branches and leaves to be invisible in the nature. They were communicating with the help of abengs (horns) in order not to be understood by the enemy and were burning plantations. Hence, they succeeded in freeing almost 1000 slaves and spread terror among slavers.

nanny 3Whilst Nanny and her soldiers during a mission were deprived from supplying and were facing hunger, she invoked the God for help. The primordial Ancestor reportedly appear to her and asked her to sow pumpkin seeds that she was having in her pockets. The following morning, food was there and Nanny could feed her troops according to the legend.

The slavers asked to the English colonial administration to react. It sent its soldiers to the Jamaican jungle. The events that followed are controversial because the murder of Nanny was announced and it is said that the news was accepted with joy in 1733, Nanny Town was then destroyed. Some other accounts said she survived since some acres of lands were granted to the Maroons after the war.

Through her heroic resistance, Nanny was recognized as a national hero of Jamaica in 1977. The 500 Jamaican dollars note, the most used one, bears her image. The Maroons have perpetuated the Akan tradition (of which Ashanti are part) with a matrilineal community. They consider Nanny as their great ancestor.



By: Lisapo ya Kama ©

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