Their giant stature and bright Caribbean colors will make most people stop in their tracks. The way they move to the rhythm of the music and their ability to simply not fall over is equally impressive. Moko Jumbies originated in Africa but have been a part of the Virgin Islands heritage for over 200 years. Today they are a staple for many celebrations on island. You’ll be sure to find them in most parades, the quarterly “Jump Up” events in Christiansted and even at weddings.
The Moko Jumbies stand on stilts around 5 feet tall. This is no easy feat and making sure the stilt is built sturdy and lasts for years to come is important. Although some Mocko Jumbies practice differently, they traditionally began with the same meaning and symbolize protectors or guardians who help deter evil spirits away from a village. The height of the stilts is known to represent the powers of God.
Willard John, a well-known figure in the St. Croix community, has been dancing on these stilts for 35 years and continues to help educate and teach others the art. Willard and his wife Curliss run “Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies.” Curliss helps make the beautiful costumes and masks while Willard focuses on the teaching aspect.
Walking with ease so high above the ground does take some practice, but many Moko Jumbies you see around island do make it look quite simple. To this day they continue to exhibit the culture of the Virgin Islands and be sure to keep your eye out for them this Thursday during “Art Walk” in downtown Christiansted. They will most definitely be a sight to see!