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Two days of Emancifest in Sligoville

Published:Wednesday | July 27, 2016 | 1:03 PMPaul H. Williams
A welcome sign in Sligoville, St Catherine.
A section of the sparsely populated Sligoville in St Catherine.

The Sligoville mini-stadium in St Catherine is set to come alive on Sunday, July 31 and Monday, August 1 with Emancifest. To commemorate Emancipation Day, the event, to be celebrated under the theme: 'Preserving our Legacy', is organised by the Sligoville Heritage Foundation.

Sunday, dubbed sports day, will see the sport competition eliminations, and a Mello-go-round, which continues the following day. After the gospel-folk concert, the day ends with a bonfire "to signify the burning of shackles", and a vigil to welcome Emancipation Day.

On Monday, 'Augus Mawning' kicks off with a church service at the Baptist church, and a freedom run. Other activities for the day include the finals of the sport competitions, a health fair, and the crowning of Miss Emancifest.

The two-day celebration climaxes with the reggae roots freedom concert featuring Romaine Virgo, Ken Boothe, Louie Culture, Nadine Sutherland, Iwayne, Singing Melody, and Sizzla.

Speaking with Rural Xpress about the importance of Emancifest to Sligoville, Stephanese Walters, assistant public relations officer, tour coordinator and guide with the Sligoville Heritage Foundation, said, "Because it's a way of celebrating freedom from what our ancestors went through in slavery, it's two days of showing gratitude for what our ancestors fought for, for the hardship they endured. Emancifest is held annually so that our culture doesn't become extinct, so the younger generation can know where they are coming from."

Sligoville's story is historical, one of freedom gained. It is one of the first places in Jamaica where slavery evolved into peasantry in an organised way.

Originally known as Highgate, Sligoville is regarded as the first village formally established for enslaved Africans. It predates Emancipation, having been set up in 1835 by Reverend James Phillippo.

It was renamed Sligoville in June, 1840 in honour of Howe Peter Browne, Marquess of Sligo, and governor of Jamaica 1834-1836.

On a plaque located in the town square are engraved names of the first residents of the free village. Henry Lunan, a former slave and headman at Hampstead estate, bought the first lot of land on August 1, 1838 from James Phillippo.

Sligoville has evolved into a sprawling, yet sparsely populated community of many districts. On Sunday and Monday, the Sligoville Heritage Foundation will be conducting tours of some of the heritage sites in the community, such as the foundation ruins of the governor's summer house, the Anglican church and cemetery, the Baptist church and the ruins of the Highgate Park House.

Admission to the venue is free of cost.