Fri | Dec 14, 2018

'Queen Nanny' visits US Embassy

Published:Thursday | June 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Gleaner Writer
Gloria 'Mamma G' Simms speaking with Kamaria Burrel (centre) and Simone Harri.
Profesor Harcourt Fuller (left) and Fae Ellington.
Captain Rodney Rose of the Charles Town Maroons sounds the Abeng before the screening of the film 'Queen Nanny'.
Professor Harcourt Fuller, Fulbright Global Scholar, speaking at the launch of 2018 US Film Festival on Tuesday evening.
Justin Reid of Ardenne Preparatory and Extension High School playing the drum at the launch of 2018 US Film Festival.

To sound off the beginning of Caribbean American Heritage Month and its accompanying film festival, the US Embassy hosted a screening of the documentary film Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess, about Jamaica's only National Heroine, now 'supreme leader' and internationally famous military general and metaphysical figure.

Queen Nanny is part of Jamaican-American Fulbright Scholar Professor Harcourt Fuller's ongoing international research project, a path which has so far led him to Ghana, Jamaica, the United States and Canada. Fuller reported that since its premiere in October 2015 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, the film has been screened in four continents, 30 countries and perhaps as many cities and communities, including local Maroon settlements Charles Town, Moore Town, Accompong and Scott's Hall.

In a full embrace of proud Maroon culture, before the lights at the Liguanea, St Andrew-based, embassy were dimmed the screening of Queen Nanny opened with warm, sweet melody - the sound of the abeng. Telling the hopefully true story of the heroine who stopped musket bullets with her hands and buttocks, the documentary still managed to stylise the central figure, whose real visage artists have only been able to suppose. Maroon and women's rights advocate Gloria 'Mama G' Simms played the role of the mystical heroine, with her face paralleled to other outstanding female leaders like Soujouner Truth, Harriet Tubman and Nana Yaa Asantewa.

Dr Orville Taylor, head of the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work at the University of the West Indies, Mona, ended the screening by confidently announcing that within the next year the film will become part of the department's curriculum. "This is just a deep historical narrative. We don't need to construct a hyperbolised image of a superhero, although that's important; there is enough depth in our history that we can just pluck up and push forward," he said. The film is currently a part of a United Nations programme, with the intention to recall slavery and, particularly, the role of women during that time.

Special thanks were given to the Jamaica Defence Force for providing helicopters to photograph the hilly terrain of sacred Old Nanny Town and personnel to help the film crew's two-day expedition to the area, navigating undisturbed mountain forest. Fuller also extended thanks to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT).

The film revealed that an expedition made in the 1970s unearthed evidence suggesting the inclusion of indigenous Taino artefacts in the lives of Old Nanny Town's residents. Fuller revealed that his ongoing research, supported by the JNHT's archive (and some oral history), has provided other enlightening information about Old Nanny Town and will be presented in a book to follow-up on the documentary.

For the film's soundtrack, Fuller (co-producer) and Roy T. Anderson (producer, director) utilised the sounds and vocals of Maroons from Moore Town. Offering a sensation and booming product of the soundtrack was young Justin Reid, student of the Ardenne Preparatory and Extension High School.

Caribbean American Heritage Month's Film Festival launch called out the support of Mama G and media legend Fae Ellington, along with Bev Carey and Professor Verene Shepherd, who both lent their expertise to the documentary's production. The film festival will take place at the end of June, with final dates to be announced.