Moko Jumbie can be seen amongst the Carnival or Spicemas celebrations in Grenada. You can find the Moko Jumbie on the streets on Carnival Tuesday, and also during Soca monarch on Fantastic Friday, among other Carnival activities. At other times of te year, Moko Jumbie can be seen as part of national events.
The word "Moko" is African meaning artificial or superficial. The word "Jumbie" refers to a ghost or spirit and is derived from the Congo word, Zumbi, meaning departed spirit. A Moko Jumbie is a large superficial scarecrow that scares away spirits. The Moko Jumbie acts as a defense against enemies or evil. Their tall appearance gives them the look of giants, standing tall against their enemies - a tower over evil. In African culture and tradition, the Moko Jumbie is regarded as a protector of villages, watching over the village to protect from evil.
Communities of Origin
The parishes of St. John and St. Marks are the homes of the Moko Jumbie. Young children are taught the art of walking on stilts to develop their skills in playing Moko Jumbie. Walking on stilts is about maintaining balance. Both boys and girls play Moko Jumbie.
As a masquerader, the Moko Jumbie is an example of a stilt masquerade. Stilt masqueraders tower over others through their elevated height. The Moko Jumbie masquerader walks on stilts. The stilts are made from wood, and elevates the height of the masquerader to as much as 20 feet tall. Buckles are used to tie the stilts to the knees of the masquerader.
The Moko Jumbie wears loose clothing that allows air to pass through the clothing. Skirts are long sleeved, and pants are long. In the past, the women wore long skirts, but today both men and women wear long pants that cover the stilts. The clothing is often very colourful. In the early years, the Moko Jumbie wore masks that covered their faces, However today, the Moko Jumbie do not wear masks.
The Moko Jumbie can be seen towering over other masqueraders in the street. It is quite courteous to allow space and distance for the Moko Jumbie to move safely through the streets and crowds. The Moko Jumbie is a very lively masquerader and tends to put on a very flamboyant display and show of prowess. The art of stilt walking is based on maintaining balance while displaying the creativity of movements to entertain and amaze onlookers.
Photo credit: Pure Grenada
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