John Canoe

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John Canoe
chief of the Ahanta, 1708-1724
Reign1708-1724
Bornunknown
Diedcirca 1725, Fort Fredericksburg?

John Canoe, also known as January Conny, (died circa 1725) was the European name given to an Akan warrior from Axim, Ghana. He was a chief of the Ahanta people in the early 18th century, who established a stronghold in the defunct Fort Fredericksburg and held it against European encroachment for 20 years. It fell finally in 1725 and his followers were transported as slaves to the Americas. He is commemorated in the Junkanoo festival held in the Caribbean each December.

History[edit]

Origin of John Canoe[edit]

January Conny (also named John Kenu, Johann Kuny, John Conrad, Johann Cuny, Jean Cunny, January Konny or John Conni by German, Dutch, British or French-language designation) was a powerful Gold Coast merchant. Conny had a private army and was an ally of Brandenburg-Prussia at the time of the Brandenburger Gold Coast colony (1683–1720) in Axim on the coast of present-day Ghana in West Africa. Between 25 December 1708 to 1724 he took over control of the abandoned Brandenburger fortress of Fort Fredericksburg and defended it against several massive conquest attempts of the Dutch. The history of the defence of the fortress was distorted for propaganda purposes in the 19th century by followers of a German colonial commitment and used for their own purposes. The tale of January Conny has today spread to different parts of the Caribbean and Ghana's Fancy Dress Festival, which was probably based on the story of January Conny.

The names listed above are European corruptions of a still unknown African name, though it can be safely assumed that "Kenu" was a part of it, as this is a typical Akan name. Jon Conny, chief of the Ahanta ethnic group, often referred to as "the King of Prinze Terre", as the Prussian's African broker, was a most effective ally, succeeding in directing such trade to the fort that revenues dwindled at the Dutch forts at Axim, Butre and Sekondi. More than 95 ships are recorded as having traded with Fort Fredericksburg between 1711 and 1713. In 1717, with their departure from the Gold Coast, Brandenburg sold its possessions to the Dutch, without John Conny's knowledge.[1]

Despite this internal conflict he remained a middleman of the Brandenburgers and, with their support, led a two-year war against neighbouring Dutch and British bases. In the course of this war, he attacked the neighbouring British fortress Fort Metal Cross at Dixcove, which was seriously damaged. In the course of these events he was able not only to provide support for his private army (warriors of the Ashanti (Asante) and Wassa), but also was able to provide support to his local population of Ahanta people and the local brokers from Dixcove and the Dutch base Butre recourse. Supposedly he commanded 15,000 men and struck the British in battle in 1712. The Dutch and British appealed unsuccessfully to the Brandenburgers to withdraw their support for January Conny because they feared for the authority of the Europeans: "[I]f Negroes are generals at their pleasure it is risky ...".

January Conny had a large number of muskets and cannons, with which he repelled several attacks by the Dutch. Supposedly he commanded at that time an army of 20,000 men. In 1724, after seven years of control of the fortress, he gave up and withdrew from the Brandenburger Gold Coast, defeated by the British, who used Fante troops or a Fante Asafo. After the capture of Prince's Town, John Kenu vanished into obscurity, possibly escaping to Kumasi, the capital of his Asante allies.[2]

In addition, Jan Conny was one of the three or four large African traders of the 18th century in Ghana. Jan Conny, John Kabes and Thomas Ewusi and an unknown man in command of large private armies and wrapped as a national wholesaler a significant part of trade (and hence also of the slave trade) with the Europeans on the Gold Coast.[3][1]

Creation of the John Canoe Festival[edit]

John Canoe/Junkanoo festival
John Canoe Dancers Jamaica 1975 Dec ver06.jpg
John Canoe celebrants (Kingston, Jamaica, Christmas 1975)
StatusActive
GenreFolk festival, street festival, parade
CountryNorth Carolina, Caribbean

According to Edward Long, an 18th-century Jamaican slave owner/historian, the John Canoe festival was created in Jamaica and the Caribbean by those Akans who supported John Canoe in Fredericksburg and had subsequently been enslaved when it fell. The festival itself included motifs from battles typical of Akan fashion. The Ashanti swordsman became the "horned headed man"; the Ashanti commander became "Pitchy patchy" who also wears a battledress with what would resemble charms, referred to as a "Batakari".[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Fort Gross Frederiksburg, Princestown (1683)", Ghana Museums and Monuments Board.
  2. ^ Briggs, Philip (2014). Ghana. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 189.
  3. ^ "Christmas Jamaican Style", History Notes: Information on Jamaica's Culture & Heritage.
  4. ^ Long, Edward (1774). "The History of Jamaica Or, A General Survey of the Antient and Modern State of that Island: With Reflexions on Its Situation, Settlements, Inhabitants, Climate, Products, Commerce, Laws, and Government" (google). 2 (3/4): 445–475. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]