Located at the foot of the Blue Mountains in eastern Jamaica is a small museum that showcases the iconic history of Jamaican Maroons. The word ‘Maroon’ describes communities of Africans who escaped plantation slavery and established settlements in hilly or mountainous regions.
The Charles Town Maroon Museum contains artifacts and educational information on Maroon heritage and is adjoined by a cultural yard known as Asafu Yard where drumming and dancing take place, as well as a kitchen that serves traditional meals. The wooden planks that make up the walls of the museum and Asafu Yard are engraved with images depicting Maroon history, thereby illustrating the story of the Maroon people and enslaved Africans brought to the Caribbean.
The former Charles Town Maroon Colonel, Frank Lumsden, now deceased, conceived and executed the artwork. Lumsden along with other members of the Charles Town Maroon Council founded the museum and Asafu Yard complex, which also includes a small community library.
The Charles Town Maroon Council hosts the annual Charles Town International Maroon Conference at Asafu Yard. The conference combines academic presentations and cultural activities related to Maroons and Indigenous People regionally and globally, to discuss, commemorate and preserve the legacy of these peoples. The conference was built around the annual celebrations of legendary Maroon leader, Captain Quao.
The heritage tourism site, according to Lumsden, is more than an attraction, but a “narrative of the culture of Maroons.” Lumsden believed that culture could be used as an anchor for development and to bring opportunities for the people of Charles Town. Thus, the museum complex, conference and related activities of the Charles Town Maroon Council seek to preserve oral traditions, music and dance, food preparation, and other technical skills such as drum making.