Caribbean Carnival Moko Jumbies
( MAFA Studio)Transforming the Idea of Stilts and Moko Jumbies
Moko Jumbies are stilt walkers or dancers who perform at Caribbean carnivals and Christmas events in certain parts of the region. They are not indigenous to the Caribbean as many would have thought, including me.
Moko means healer and Jumbie is a West Indian parlance for ghost or spirit. However, the moko jumbie is seen today as a feature for entertainment and tourist attraction. They have somewhat lost the connection to colonial history in the minds of many on the carnival day.
With the advent of technology and futurism, some natives in the Caribbean have become benumbed as it relates to modern sensitivity to their cultural legacy and history. The parallelism of carnival and colonialism is not conceived in the mind of revellers who come out to play and lose themselves to the rhythm of soca and the grandiose costumes.
Many would ask why should history cast a shadow on the minds of the revellers who just want to party? Maybe the answer lies in wishful thinking or a moral obligation to remember and relay why we call it a carnival, Crop Over (Barbados)or Mashramani (Guyana) and where its roots are embedded.
The Moko Jumbie tradition was brought from West Africa to the Caribbean and is associated with African Mythology. It has become a contemporary art form through its transitionary phases over the years. Trinidad in 2016 has taken it to the next level breaking the mould of traditional concepts and has embraced a futuristic approach is a design.
However, Carnival’s connection to colonialism had been somewhat diluted, yet the irony lies in the facades of plantations preserved for attraction even though we are reminded of its origins and the Moko Jumbies stand on stills to watch over this historical performance.