Monday, October 26, 2009

Partying with the Mocko Jumbies



I love mocko jumbies. I think one of the reasons that I love them so much is that they always represent a party of some kind. In Caribbean culture, these masked, colorfully-costumed stilt walkers typically appear at carnival celebrations or other festivities. You'll find them on most English-speaking islands, where these figures can be traced back to traditional West African rituals where they represented spiritual seers and protectors of the village. I bought the fanciful mocko jumbie sketch above from artist Judith King in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. It enlivens my hallway with its playful spirit.



In May, the U.S. Virgin Islands unveiled their new logo and I thought it was particularly fitting that the symbol is a mocko jumbie. On St. Croix, St. Thomas and St.John, mocko jumbies pop up everywhere,from neighborhood jump ups to beauty pageants. Below, a crew of mocko jumbies get ready to parade in St. John.



Watching mocko jumbies dance and clown is an entertaining experience because it takes a lot of skill to balance on towering stilts and dance to pumping rhythms at the same time. The mocko jumbies below showcase the deftness required:

13 comments:

Rachel Cotterill said...

We saw some of these in Havana, but didn't know there was a name for them. Thanks for the insight :)

A Cuban In London said...

We have them in Cuba, too. Some of my better friends have become stilt-walkers after doing theatre for many years without breaking through. Now they entertain tourists in Old Havana walking on stilts. Lovely clip. I enjoyed it a lot. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Lola said...

Yes. They definitely go back to West Africa. We have a ton of masquerades and "ojuju" dancers on stilts.

I like the name "Mocko Jumbies". Sounds more fun that ojuju monsters :)

Fly Girl said...

Rachel, that's what they're called in the English-speaking Caribbean. They aren't directly part of the Latin masquerade tradition so I don't know what they're called in Cuba.

Cubano, what are they called in Cuba and are they just for tourists?

Lola, I know, masquerades and stilt walkers appear in about every West African country. The name comes from a break down of several West African dialects but it is fun to say!

marina villatoro said...

hey, I've never heard of them! What fun. I love the caribbean style festivals period. They have them here, but much different than the actual islands.

Catherine said...

love the name of these fantastical creatures...have seen them plenty of times but didn't know the name mocko jumbies..love it...I once saw a whole performance of Romeo and Juliet on stilts by a Brazilian theatre company..really cool!!

Fly Girl said...

Marina, know you know what to look for when you go to the Caribbean!

Catherine,Romeo & Juliet on stilts! I'd love to see that!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

How colourful, Fly Girl. They look beautiful.

Fly Girl said...

Jean-Luc, and you know how I love colorful!

Wendy said...

I love the name as well as the logo. Nice modern twist.

Fly Girl said...

Wendy, I knew you'd appreciate the graphic aspects!

Mary R said...

cool... I've seen these before as street performers in South America, but didn't know what they were! thanks for the background!

Fly Girl said...

Mar R., South America! I've never seen them in the region, where were you?